Pata Yamaha Progress in Tricky Conditions on Friday at Phillip Island

Pata Yamaha Progress in Tricky Conditions on Friday at Phillip Island

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Free practice

Mixed weather greeted the Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team on Friday at the opening round of the 2018 FIM Superbike World Championship and the team were forced to deal with mixed fortunes throughout the day.

Alex Lowes showed superb fortitude to bounce back after a crash in FP2, which forced him to miss the entire session, making up for lost time in FP3 to set a 1:31.516 and end the day in tenth overall, with both riders making it through to SP2 on Saturday.

A key change to Friday for the 2018 WorldSBK Championship is the inclusion of a third forty-minute practice session, with the top ten riders on the combined timesheets at the end of the day automatically making it through to SP2 on Saturday. This would prove to be vital as the weather played a crucial role on the opening day of the season, with rain in the morning meaning FP1 saw the riders out on wet tyres before conditions improved for a dry FP2, allowing riders to head out on slicks. Rain once more fell at the island before FP3, with a drying track meaning riders had to push to the absolute limit to try and improve their times.

Lowes got off to a great start in the morning's FP1, making the most of the wet conditions to finish the session in fifth with a 1:43.472. Unfortunately for the 27-year-old British rider, he then made a small mistake and crashed at Lukey Heights on his first flying lap in FP2 and, while he walked away unhurt, his bike suffered considerable damage. Forced to miss the rest of the session as the team repaired his Pata Yamaha R1 and, having not been able to set a time in the dry, Lowes watched on nervously as rain fell before FP3. Luckily, the rain went away before the start of the session and while conditions were not perfect, the 2013 British Superbike Champion immediately went out and made up for lost time, setting a 1:31.596 to move into the top ten within minutes of the session being green flagged. He improved again towards the end of FP3 to a 1:31.516 to secure tenth overall on the combined timesheets and ensure that he joined his teammate in making it through automatically to SP2 on Saturday.

The Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team return to action on Saturday at 9.40 am local time for FP4, with SP2 at 12:55 pm and Race 1 scheduled to start at 15:00 pm.

Alex Lowes

Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team - 10th - 1:31.516

"It was a difficult day! I felt okay in the wet session this morning but in the second session I crashed on my first lap, which was an unfortunate mistake, so I missed the whole of FP2. Then in the final session, we tried piecing together all of our best settings from the test but I didn't quite have the feeling I was expecting, so we have a bit of work to do in the dry. It wasn't too bad, although my feeling with the R1 is not really as good as I want, but the team are working as hard as they can to improve this. I just need to find a bit more confidence from the front of the bike, especially on corner entry, to help me maintain a good lap time. That is what we will work on for tomorrow. We will have to wait and see what the weather brings but I am looking forward to the first race of the season!"

Paul Denning

Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team Principal

"It's been a challenging day for all the teams at Phillip Island with very changeable weather. On this particular circuit, which seems to attract four seasons in one hour, let alone one day, it can make preparations for the race quite tough. Both riders were quite comfortable in the wet conditions during FP1, which was positive, and they had a good feeling with their R1s in the slippery conditions. For FP2, we were faced with much cooler conditions but a dry circuit, Alex, unfortunately, made a small mistake on his first timed lap and the accident damaged his R1 beyond repair during the forty-minute session. FP3 looked like it was going to be wet again but high temperatures and a good breeze saw the track in better condition than expected, Alex did a great job - considering he hadn't done any laps in the dry - to get straight into the top ten and only 0.5s of the best time in the session.  Alex is missing a little bit of track time and we will have to make some very careful decisions tomorrow to make sure we have got the best-balanced bike we can give him."