This weekend, the Superbike World Championship will set up its marquee on the majestic Misano in Italy. Historically, the Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK have led the series with an iron fist, with team rider Jonathan Rea winning six consecutive championships and the Kawasaki KHI racing department responsible for the same number of Constructors’ crowns.
And so far, all is well in 2021; Rea leads the title race after two laps. And then there’s Alex Lowes. Sixth in the fight for the WSBK 2020 championship, Lowes performed well last season in his first year with the lime green mark, but the 30-year-old Englishman wants more in ’21.
After finishing second, second and third in the first races of Aragon. Bad luck haunted Lowes’ garage during the recent Estoril round. He eventually finished 19-6-4 in Portugal, but now he and the entire KRT company will look to Misano on Saturday and Sunday and step up to speed in his quest to become the WSBK 21 champion.
Q: Is it nice to finally find a traditional racing rhythm with the WSBK championship?
ALEX LOWES: Yeah, because obviously you spend a lot of your life waiting for the next race. You are focused on the next race. You know when the race is going to take place. You are training for the race. You think of the race. With confinement, we didn’t know what was going on and the schedule kept changing. We didn’t know how long this was going to last, and it was just weird. It was the same for everyone, but it was a strange year and a strange situation. It’s great to come back. You feel like you’ve got some momentum, and then we’ll have the next race in Donington after that, a race we haven’t had for a few years. From there we will have Assen. It’s more of a normal European racing schedule now, so yeah, it’s good to be back racing. Hopefully we can have 100% fans soon. There will be a few fans coming back this weekend, which will be cool. Everyone just wants to get back to normal now.
Q: The official Kawasaki WorldSBK team, KRT, is a fabulous racing program. You are now in your second year with the team. Thoughts?
AL: They are a fantastic team. Obviously, last year has been, as we said, a strange year, and we never thought that we would go to races where you would wear your mask and stay in your little bubble group, and you were not allowed to mingle or meet other people in the paddock. But I got to know the team a bit more and I was able to spend a little time in Barcelona with the guys. It’s a great bunch of guys with a lot of experience so there’s a lot you can learn from being around them.
Q: It sure looks like you and Jonathan Rea get along.
AL: Yeah, we get along well. Obviously you want to beat your teammate and he always wins, so it’s tough work right now, but I’ll tell you one thing: I’m getting a lot closer all the time, and we’re trying to be more similar. That’s my goal: to keep him close and try to beat him. Usually we have a good relationship and off the bike we get along well and we have a special relationship, but a good relationship too.
Q: Perhaps the best and the worst of times with your results in the Aragon and Estoril rounds. What do you think so far?
AL: Yeah, I’m generally happy. Obviously, we are runners, we always want to do better. Unless you win every race, you still want to try to improve. I am happy so far. This year we took a good step with my understanding of the bike, and I feel much better prepared now for all the different situations. In the opening round in Aragon, we had wet races and wet sessions, and I was able to be fast in all these conditions. It gave me a lot of confidence, and obviously there are a lot of different tracks coming up, new tracks, and I’m very excited to try the bike on these new tracks and try to get on the podium every week. -end. This is my target now.
Q: Speaking of the Ninja ZX-10RR, do you have a good relationship with the bike?
AL: Yeah, I like it. Obviously I rode a different bike for Yamaha for four years, and you’re kind of stuck in there. You’re trying to ride this bike the way this bike should be driven, so it took me a little while to fully understand the Kawasaki, but it’s so strong, it stays on track and it’s good at acceleration. I try to do more cycling this way and it took me a little while. Now I understand exactly what to do. I’m not doing it 100% yet, but it’s becoming a lot more natural for me to ride the bike the way it should be, and that’s why the results are improving.
Q: During each World Superbike weekend, all of you, as competitors, are sent out to run three different times. That’s a lot of racing over 48 hours!
AL: It’s okay. Obviously I talk to my brother a lot (ED: Sam Lowes competes for the Elf Marc VDS Racing team in Moto2) and they only have one chance every MotoGP weekend. If you don’t have the best run, you have to wait a long time to try it again. At the same time, if you have a really good race, you need to save it the next day. I like the calendar. I like the way it gives you the option to correct a mistake or repeat a result. The only thing that was difficult enough, and that I really need to focus on, is that when you get to a new circuit with the bike on Friday you only have two 40 minute sessions. Then, on Saturday, you have qualifying and you are directly in the race. Sometimes you’re just a little while on the bike when you don’t have a lot of track experience. Other than that, running is the most fun part of riding a bike, and that’s what we love to do. Yeah, it’s good to test and try new things, to practice or have a good lap in qualifying, but racing is what you really love. The more races the better for me.
Q: What do you think of the competitive landscape for the WSBK so far in 2021?
AL: Obviously Jonathan wins again at the start of the season, but I think the championship is the strongest it has been in a long time. There are a lot of guys who can win. There are a lot of bikes and teams that can win. If you go back seven or eight years, maybe there was Aprilia and Kawasaki that could win, then you had Ducati. Some teams were almost there, but not quite. Now, and with everyone slowly improving, there are a lot of good bikes and a lot of good riders, and the teams have increased their level as well. I think you see some great races this year. For me, I think the level is the highest it has been, certainly since I have been involved here since 2014. The current level of bikes, teams and riders combined is the best I have been involved with.
Q: Can you be the 2021 WorldSBK World Champion?
AL: Yes, I can win the world championship. I think I need to improve in a few areas just to get that little one last and beat the guy across the garage. It’s a challenge that really excites me, and I really believe in myself to make it happen. I just need to be calm at the start of the year. Like we said, we have three races per weekend and 39 races in the year, so it’s about being smart now and building confidence and building some momentum. This is the target.