A strong opening performance for Alex Lowes placed his Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK into the top-five at the Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours today as the Fassi French Round began. Local hero Sylvain Guintoli also launched into his home race weekend by securing his place in Saturday's Superpole 2 with a provisional ninth on his YZF-R1.
Lowes immediately opened his FrenchWorldSBK account with a strong morning session, setting a 1'38.782 to hold a top-five time after his first hour at the Nièvre track. Heading out to improve, the Briton unfortunately fell at turn two as the afternoon session began, halting his progress. However, never one to back down, he regrouped and returned to the action with only eight minutes of track time remaining, renewing his previous position with a 1'38.193 to claim fifth in the combined times, sending him comfortably through to tomorrow's final Superpole qualifier.
Guintoli spent Friday's two hours of practice looking to perfect his set-up on the YZF-R1 as he returned to a track he knows and favours well. Consistently improving his speed and times aboard his Pata Yamaha Superbike, the Frenchman navigated the Nevers Circuit to conclude the day with a best time of 1'38.618, sitting him in ninth place overall and guaranteeing his spot in Superpole 2.
Saturday looks set to relinquish Friday's warm and dry conditions, with heavy rain forecast as the Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team returns for the final free practice at 08:45 local time. Lowes and Guintoli will then look to battle for the best grid places at 10:55 as Superpole 2 gets underway ahead of the afternoon's 21-lap race at 13:00.
5th / 1'38.193 / 28 laps
"I'm feeling okay, obviously it's never nice to ride injured as you never feel that great on the bike when you're not fit but I feel like my pace isn't too bad and we'll see what the weather brings tomorrow. It's been really nice to be back with the WorldSBK team and hopefully we can try to improve and see if we can get a couple of good results this weekend. To be honest I feel like I've been injured all year so it's not the best but the team have been doing a good job and the YZF-R1 is working well so we're not going to change too much for tomorrow, just do some more laps and see how we feel."
9th / 1'38.618 / 40 laps
"I was an average day for us at Magny-Cours. We have improved the feeling from this morning to this afternoon quite a bit and managed to be consistent throughout the second free practice, but I found it hard to do a fast lap time. We are just missing the raw performance at the moment so we will have to see what the conditions are like tomorrow. Once again it looks like it will be difficult to be quite as quick as we would like in the race if it's fully dry but we will try 100% at my home race!."
Paul Denning Team Principal
"The dry conditions today were very welcome, it's not clear what the rest of the weekend will bring but it's good to get FP1 and FP2 completed with decent track conditions. For Alex, considering the injuries to his foot, the obvious discomfort he's in and the lack of movement, FP1 was very consistent and went well but unfortunately the front-end crash we suffered at the start of FP2 made the rest of the day a lot more challenging. The boys did a brilliant job to get the bike repaired in time to make a few laps at the end of the session and Alex also repaid their efforts by responding very strongly and, despite the lack of track time, posted a superb lap time to go fifth.
For Sylvain, the day went quite smoothly with normal setting and race preparation work. I think he and his crew are disappointed that we couldn't extract more lap time with the fresh tyre and overall Sylvain is looking for more outright performance from the bike. We are very consistent at the moment but not quite as quick as we would like to be. Let's try to improve tomorrow!"