He may head into the BSB title showdown as one of the outsiders, but Alex Lowes has signalled his intentions with pole position on the championship’s first visit to Assen. The WFR Honda youngster trails Tommy Hill by 33 points but set a blistering pace from the moment he arrived in the Netherlands, topping the timesheets in Friday Practice before beating Michael Laverty to pole.
Lowes admits some experience of the 4.545km track on a World Superbike machine last year helped him acclimatise this weekend and is excited to go racing tomorrow, feeling he has very little to lose relative to his title rivals.
“I knew my way around having had two days here last year testing with the Ten Kate Honda team so have been able to set my bike up well for the circuit. I’ve been consistent, had a good pace and done a series of good laps and pushed on really hard. In terms of the championship I am behind but I am going out there to enjoy it, be consistent, fast and do my best. I am up for the fight.”
Second placed Michael Laverty has a 21 point deficit to make up in the title fight and will start two places ahead of current leader Tommy Hill. The wildcard between them on the front row will be Jakub Smrz who will make his BSB debut from third on the grid, comfortably the best result for a Splitlath Redmond Aprilia.
A fascinating couple of races lie ahead with the Czech rider promising to get stuck in regardless of the championship situation, adding that he can race with no pressure tomorrow.
“I am really happy that we can make this front row together with the Splitlath Redmond team here this weekend,” he said. “This is not my first front row here but it is the first one for the team and this is good. I have not ridden this bike before, it is maybe two years since I rode an Aprilia and because of the different rules here in BSB, this bike is completely different to any I have ridden before. We had a few little problems early on with set-up but all the guys have done a really great job and I think we are all pretty happy to be on the front row. I am looking forward to getting mixed up with the guys at the front. They have all got a championship to fight for but I do not. It is not my problem so I am happy to fight with them if I have to out there. I think we shall see tomorrow!”
Tommy Hill is mindful of that fact but the Swan Yamaha rider has had his own problems so far, crashing on Friday and constantly making set-up tweaks to his bike. Hill felt he could have gone quicker today given slightly better weather conditions and remains confident heading into tomorrow.
“Every time we have gone out here this weekend we have been making chassis and gearing changes and it is a different feeling here with the bike compared to some of the previous circuits we have raced on. To be honest with the changing conditions I was pretty shocked to have done the time that I did. We have been working with the different tyre options and we had a good pace but the changeable conditions just meant we couldn’t push that little bit extra today. We had some in reserve and we want to have a strong race tomorrow.”
Josh Brookes is right behind his rival on the grid in fifth with Luca Scassa an impressive sixth for Padgetts Honda. Shane Byrne, back after a two weekend layoff, is seventh on the grid ahead of his teammate Stuart Easton while Tommy Bridewell has the most work to do of the six title contenders starting from ninth.