Despite suffering from a winter bug, Pata Yamaha’s Alex Lowes had one good dry weather day of testing at Motorland, before he and his team lost day two to consistently wet weather.
Looking for some real improvements in his official Yamaha to take on what looks like – on paper at least – an even greater number of podium rivals in 2019 than 2018, Lowes appears unconvinced so far.
“We had a few bits and I feel like the swingarm may make a tenth here or there, but it was already behind the Kawasaki and Ducati, they have obviously got new bikes and potential to go forward, a tenth or half a tenth is not enough really,” Lowes told bikesportnews.com.
“Ducati was as quick as us first day on the bike, which is not a good sign, and Kawasaki has got pretty much the same bike but with a bit more speed. So they are going to be even further away. It looks like it could be a bit of a shame, but I do not know.
The new swingarm was actually quite positive. I felt like I rode really well, feel good on the bike and carried on my good feeling with the front of the bike from Qatar. But I’m not sure if it is going to be enough.”
Lowes tried both 2018 and 2019 spec front forks, with Öhlins using new versions in 2019, reputedly of wider bore and different mountings. “The front forks were good here and they feel a bit more stable so I can just hook the line a little bit better, it is just a little bit of feeling but it is still positive for me,” said Lowes.
“I back-to-backed with the 2018 and 2019 ones, and I did it on day one, twice. All day I have been changing and I am quite happy with the new ones. I am struggling to get the bike stopped as well with them but we think that is more of a setting thing. Definitely in the corner I feel better. They are a bit harsh at the minute and I am lifting the rear a bit when I try to tip in so I think we can improve the ’19 ones as well but already it is quite a bit positive.
The swingarm was some positive, some negative. I feel like we need to really get off the corners a bit better and in that area it did not make the step that I was hoping for, but there was still a bit more feeling and understanding of the rear tyre.
What we have got the guys have done great with and it looks like we have found a couple of tenths or a tenth and they are so hard to find anyway. But it looks like we have to find quite a lot more somehow, someway.”
When asked if this means that he is already using the full potential of the bike, and that there may not be so much potential left, Lowes said, “Honestly, I feel like we are riding the bike quite hard. I believe we can always improve but if you look at me and Michael this year some weekends we have a podium and the next weekend we are struggling to get sixth. That to me means we are too much on a knife-edge with the bike – we are not riding at 95% we are riding at 100 per cent.
“My goal for next year is to try to be of a more consistent higher level but I think to do that we need to try to improve the bike so we have… Johnny has always got a little bit of time in his pocket and we don’t. To be honest this year I don’t think Ducati did, which is why their results were a little bit like this. We are all good riders and we are riding for podium one week, you have to be riding quite well. You do not just forget how to ride the next week.
“So it looks like Kawasaki was the only team that could ride a little bit off maximum and still be really strong and competitive. It always allows you to be good in all conditions. Obviously you have Johnny, who’s bike can be as good as he wants, if you can do 1’50s on your fist lap you still have to be doing something really well. I am the first person to admit that.
“I am just hope that what it looks like today, Ducati is going to come in and be strong straight away, Kawasaki has made another step forward and they did not need to make a step forward, as they won the last 11 races. It is hard for me to be too positive because we need to make a big step somewhere.”