Twins Sam and Alex Lowes have been pushing each other since they started riding in the rolling back country of Lincolnshire, England. Now, after two decades, these young larrikins are lining up in WSB
When you’re not wearing your sponsorship logos I struggle to tell you two apart – what’s the key?
Alex: I’m a bit taller and skinnier and better looking. And I’ve got a scar.
Sam: I’ve had a tough life mate.
You could be ageing prematurely, Sam.
Sam: I am.
Alex: He looks older than me for sure.
Sam: Yeah I do, I’ve had it tough mate. It’s hard winning Grand Prix.
So how did you get that scar (under his left eye)?
Alex: He hit me by accident with the bottom of an old-school motocross trophy. At least I think it was by accident…
Sam: One of those ones with a marble bottom.
Why did you do that Sam?
Sam: I didn’t do it on purpose. I think we just had a coming together. I can’t really remember what happened. We were only young at the time.
Alex: Our parents say we weren’t fighting, just messing about.
Sam: If we were fighting it would’ve been even.
Alex: Yeah, I’d have ended up with two scars…
You’ve been described as a couple of crazy country lads born and bred in Lincolnshire; you started off riding dirt, tell us about that.
Sam: Yes, Cadwell Park is our local track but we started off racing in motocross at age 11 or 12 with a view to going road racing some day. Dad used to race, but not at a high level, so we never really had anyone around to guide us. If you’re a young Spanish rider nowadays you’re on track at age 6 or 7 and the people who are teaching you are ex-champions. We were just riding with each other and helping each other. Well, I helped him more (laughs).
Which mentors have helped you in your careers?
Alex: Hodgy [Neil Hodgson] is my Manager and he helps me a lot. We also had Ron Haslam and Leon [Haslam] when we were younger, so we’ve been really lucky.
Despite your obvious success, consistency has been a challenge in the past. How are you tackling this now that you’ve reached the highest levels of international competition?
Sam: I think we’ve not had the same upbringing as a lot of the guys in the MotoGP paddock. We’ve not been racing bikes at a high level since we were 13 or 14 years old. We started this when we were 18-year-olds and it just felt like going to work. People judge us by where we are now, but really we’re young in experience compared to a lot of racers and I think it makes a big difference because the level we’re at is high. We’ve got habits in our riding that we shouldn’t have, but we’re getting around it.
That seems to come through when you’re fighting for better results than perhaps the machines underneath you are capable of.
Alex: Honestly, I don’t really care about that because if I was consistent last year and finished seventh in the championship, who would have cared? Who cares in 20 years’ time which rider finished sixth or seventh? Obviously I’m employed by a professional team and I’m going to try and be more consistent, but it’s not the reason I go racing – I’d rather stay at home. That’s my attitude, it’s why I’ve crashed and been like I have. It’s the right thing to do to finish as far forward as you can on the bike, but I know I can ride as fast as those guys and I want to be fighting at the front, having a go, and getting on the podium. That’s why I get up every day and dedicate my life to it.
Alex, some people have commented that racing in WSBK is a bit dull these days. What’s your perspective as someone racing in that paddock?
Alex: Now more and more, with the way the electronics and stuff are, it’s difficult for the rider to make up the difference in the competitive advantage of the different bikes. That was what was so great about BSB [British Superbike Championship] – the bike was what it was and you could make the difference. In WSBK you can’t. There are enough examples now, like when Leon left Honda for Aprilia and went from finishing 10th to challenging for the podium every week. Johnny [Rea] also did a great job on the Honda, which was clearly not competitive, and that’s why he was so dominant when he got on the Kawasaki. If I want to go out there this afternoon and put my balls on the line to beat Johnny, I can’t do it, whereas you could when the bikes were less focused on electronics, like BSB, and that suited me a bit more.
If you could choose any bike on which to compete in WSBK, what would it be?
Sam: Ducati is the best bike in the WSBK championship.
Alex: Do you reckon?
Sam: 100 per cent.
Alex: I don’t know.
Sam: Easily. If someone said to me, ‘Do you want to ride a Kawasaki or a Ducati?’, I’d say I’ll ride an Aprilia.
Alex: Ha ha! I was waiting for that.
Alex, you’re now in your second year with the factory Pata Yamaha – how are things looking at the moment?
Alex: Honestly, I feel great on the Yamaha. They’ve been great to me. Last year I was injured a lot, but this year the atmosphere in the team is the best it has been and I feel as fit as I’ve been in a long time. But that doesn’t mean we can go out and win the World Championship; we still have a lot of hard work to do.
Your previous team mate, ex-world champion Sylvain Guintoli, is a veteran of the sport – how is the relationship now with up and coming rider Michael Van der Mark?
Alex: I get on with Sylvain well, but I wouldn’t say he’s a friend. Because of his experience, he can actually make the situation in the team more difficult. I respect him for being world champion
and it would have been nice to have him on the bike again this year for development as I think his style suited the bike quite well. Michael is good too, though. Coming from the Honda, I think lots of people are expecting him to come in and win or podium, but I don’t think that’s going to be the case. On the flipside, it will probably help to accurately show the level that the bike is currently at.
Who’s the eldest?
Alex: He is.
Sam: Won that one mate, straight out by two minutes – about a lap of Malaysia.
Does that mean Sam’s faster?
Alex: He’d be faster up the straight than me now he’s on the MotoGP bike, but that’d be about it! (Sam laughs) Obviously we’ve raced against each other for a long time and I quite like it at the minute where we can help each other and we’re not in direct competition. If we were, I still think I’d win, but so does he.
Some other families of racers, such as the Lavertys, spend a lot of time helping each other by corner-spotting etc. Do you have a similar approach?
Sam: Yeah, I think everyone who’s in a family with a racing background has that sort of attitude, and if I was struggling he’d come and help out. Nowadays we sort of know why we’re struggling. It’s a long way past the days where I could go out and say ‘your line’s wrong’ or whatever; if one of us is on the wrong line now then that’s a bad job really.
Have you ever abused the privilege of having a doppelganger?
Sam: I think Alex is fed up with the jokes by now because I’m a very jokey person by nature. After 26 years of it his reputation precedes him, but it’s really my reputation that precedes him and that’s the problem. It’s not so bad now because he’s got a nice fiancé, so he’s more settled, but in the past… And I have a nice girlfriend – well, I’ve got a girlfriend, I don’t know if she’s nice or not.
We’ll cut that out.
Sam: No, keep it in! In the past he’s had a bad name and I’m proud of that fact. I’ve hindered him!
Alex: I got the blame for everything while he talked his way out of it.
Sam: With women as well we tried a lot – well, I tried a lot – to kiss his girlfriends.
Did it work?
Sam: Yeah, sometimes.
Was that before the scar or after?
Sam: After the scar, but usually in a dark room. Our bedrooms were close together so I could just sneak in.
Alex: I never fancied yours very much.
Sam: I had low standards so he wasn’t really interested. He always had good taste in women, so it was always an option for me.
Alex: We had a lot of fun growing up as twins and some of it’s not suitable for public consumption, but we enjoyed it and if anyone was put in our position they would have taken advantage of it and done exactly as we did. Otherwise what’s the point of being a twin!?
Sam: You’ve got to play the hand you’re dealt, and we’ve played ours well.
You could be the first identical twins to race in MotoGP – has that motivated you to fight harder?
Sam: Yeah, Al did a few races last year and showed that he can go there and be successful; he finished mid-field on a satellite bike. And I’m already there, hopefully for a few years, so who knows? WSBK is sort of where I started – in the Supersport class – so, yeah, it would be nice to see Alex come up from Superbikes.
Although you’ve proved otherwise, Sam, many people say that you need to be in the MotoGP paddock to get a MotoGP ride.
Sam: Yeah, you do really. I’m the only rider who’s managed to come from Supersport and be successful in Moto2 to earn a ride in MotoGP. It was a difficult way to do it.
Alex: God loves a trier. I think someone felt sorry for him.
Sam: I don’t know how to say this without sounding bad but I’m going to say it anyway… When I was in Supersport I managed to win the championship in a good way and managed to finish first or second in every race – the bike was really good though – then I went to Moto2 and no one really knew who I was and on a bike that no one gave credit for, and I still won a Grand Prix. Then last year wasn’t a great year; we were supposed to be fighting for the world championship but I got a bit carried away. Anyway, I still won races and I still got more podiums, so what I’m trying to say is, if you do something that people don’t expect in our sport that’s when you get your chance. Last year when Alex went to Suzuka he was the fastest rider – he was teamed up with Pol Espargaró and Nakasuga, who’s got a podium in MotoGP, and was still fastest. Now he’s got a ride in World Superbike because Yamaha wasn’t expecting him to do that.
Have either of you ever experienced ‘twin telepathy’? For instance when you’re separated but feel something strange when the other has crashed or been injured?
Sam: Alex has that every time I go out…
Sam: For me it’s the same when you get to know the person really well. I’ve spent every day of my life with him. Until I was 16 we never spent a night apart, same bedroom and everything. Because of that you get to know the other person and what they’re thinking. We’re always thinking similar things and can finish each other’s sentences, but I have that with other people too… well, not with my missus because I’m never with them long enough, but if you’re with someone a long time you get to know what they’re thinking.
Alex: There’s no other dimension where he crashes and my arm hurts.
Sam: Yeah, there’s no weird twin things really. Apart from being extra good in bed and having superhuman stamina and that. Aside from that, we’re normal.
INTERVIEW PAUL MCCANN
PHOTOGRAPHY ANDREW GOSLING / TPG PHOTOGRAPHY, GOLD & GOOSE, RUSSELL COLVIN, KANEAL LINDSEY