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The #QatarGP was a tough start to the season for even the most veteran of riders on the grid, with weather, cancellations and delays stealing much of the headline space until lights out. For a rookie, that made the challenge of a first race even harder, and motogp.com caught up with Aprilia Racing Team Gresini rider Sam Lowes after the flag to find out what the Brit thought following his MotoGP™ debut.
First on the agenda: keeping calm and carrying on in some difficult debut circumstances.
Sam Lowes: “The weekend was a bit different, with the weather and then the race was on and off the grid – which was strange for my first MotoGP race. I was a bit nervous anyway but then to be on the grid, off the grid and not sure what was happening was a bit strange. But the race was ok! We had a few issues at the start of the race and lost touch with the group in front but the last few laps were quite ok. To be honest, just to finish the first race and understand more about the bike means we can take the positives from that. We didn’t show anywhere near our potential, so overall it wasn’t a fantastic race, but I learnt a lot. It’s difficult after a long winter to go to the first race and everyone wants to do a good job, so it was important to finish and not make mistakes. Argentina should be a more normal weekend, and we’ll make quite a big step because our potential is a lot more than what we showed in Qatar.”
Lowes only rode the new Aprilia for the first time in the Qatar Test - earlier in March this year. With the track time then further reduced with the cancellation of qualifying and FP4 following the rain in the desert (really!), the Brit says base setting is the focus – and the potential of the new bike is very high:
SL22: “We’re still trying to find a base setting for me. We missed all the track time, then with the track changing a bit with the conditions, we were a long way from where we needed to be. If I compare how I was riding at the test - the laptimes and feeling that I had - we couldn’t get near that on the race weekend, given the way the track was and the way the schedule panned out. But the potential of the bike is really high. When I first got on the bike last year, it was the one they’d used it all year and the base setting was really dialed in. I saw and rode the maximum potential of the old bike, so it was quite a good level. When I jumped on the new bike, it was already on the same level and I’d say I’m at about 60% of the potential of it. The way the bike works and what it can do is a lot better than the old bike. Aleix has been on the new one since Sepang so he has good direction at quite a few tracks – that shows what I’ve got to look forward to and the positive step Aprilia have made.”
Teammate Aleix Espargaro impressed in Qatar, taking the team’s top finish since making a return to the MotoGP™ grid in 2015 – an important result for the team early on, and one Lowes sees as the start of the Noale factory beginning to show their full potential:
SL22: “Aleix did a great job and I think the balance in the team is quite good. We need a couple of races to understand where I can be at, because after the first race I didn’t show where we are. So I’m really positive, and I think Aprilia have done a great job. It’s really important for the team to have a strong result early in the season to reward everyone’s hard work. I’m looking forward to Argentina. This year will be a good year for Aprilia - and I think they’ll show their full potential by the end of the season.”
Already a World Champion in World Supersport, and now lining up in MotoGP™ - that, Lowes says, was always the dream. And the real hard work? It starts now.
SL22: “I think any rider who says MotoGP isn’t the goal is lying! It’s always been a dream of mine and that’s why when I won the WorldSSP title, I came to Moto2. MotoGP was the dream and the goal, and now I’ve got it it’s the real hard work to try and be competitive.”
Engines fire up on the 7th April at Termas de Rio Hondo in Argentina, with Lowes on it and ready to make that step, use the track time, and start unlocking the potential of the package.
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