Alex Lowes places his finger on his left temple, indicating a spot just above his cheekbone: “to be sure you have to look here, next to the eye. If you see a scar, it's me. If you don't see it, it's Sam”.
Alex and Sam Lowes are twins. Two peas in a pod. Sam is older: “two minutes older” Alex grumbles “and he's been reminding me of it forever, day in, day out...” Sam: “well, it's a detail that takes on a certain importance. Legally.”
Alex and Sam are from Lincoln, an English county three hours by car northeast of London. Their father, Stewart, is a small business owner and their mother, Donna, works with him. And then there is Wilfred: Wilf, to his friends. Their grandfather. Very, very important in the boys' lives. He taught them to play golf and then, well before Alex had become English Superbike champion (he now races in World SBK) and Sam had earned the title of World SuperSport champion (he now rides in Moto2 and next year he will be in MotoGP with Aprilia), Wilf had catechised the boys: “don't chase after the money. Follow passion; having passion is the first step toward being good; being good is the first step toward making money.”
It is fair to say that, with twins who were determined to race, they really needed money. Sam Lowes: “We always needed two of everything: two bikes, two sets of leathers, two pairs of gloves...” Alex Lowes “… and worries also came in pairs: two skinned knees, two swollen elbows... the critical moment in economic terms came when we were fifteen: dad and mum took out a mortgage on the house so we could race.”
Sam: “I really can't remember which of the two of us had the idea first that bike racing could be fun. I know that at three years of age it was a fact of life.” Alex: “We slept in bunk beds so in the evening it was all talk of bikes and riders. And during the day everything was a challenge: who could jump farther, who was faster, who was better in school.”
Sam: “…. and at school, I must say we did well. ” Stewart made it clear: you want to race? Okay: I'll give you the shirt off my back, but I expect 100% from you at school. Sam: “He got it. On finals – which are at sixteen for us – out of ten tests I got eight A's. Which is as high as you can get. In the other two, A+ in both: mathematics and gym… For almost our entire time in school” Sam continues “we were desk mates. In the last two years they separated us, placing us in different classes. A bit because we were noisy together, a bit because on our tests we always achieved the exact same marks. It was suspicious, so me here, Alex there. The result: on the final exam, the one I mentioned earlier, we achieved the same, identical marks again. Me in one room, him in the other..."
From that moment, however, something changed: precisely in that moment of maximum identity, in the days when Alex and Sam could overlap to almost a perfect match, the differences began to come out little by little. Not that there weren't any before, small rays of light between one shape and another, but they were trifles. Alex prefers blue, Sam likes red. Alex has a more precise idea of the value of money, whereas for Sam, the world is a playground. Sam is more of a chatterbox; Alex is more the quiet type. Sam: “I have always spoken for both of us”; Alex: “I have always taken charge of other things, for both of us.”
Just a few elements when compared to those that, on the other hand, mark the identical views and desires. They both like Ferraris; they both love the film Top Gun; they both prefer brunettes and both have consensually taken advantage of being identical when it was convenient.
Sam: “if we got into trouble, I would say it was him, he would say it was me: no one could figure it out and everything went by the wayside.” Above all, they shared the same intense dream. To grab that dream, however, they realised that they would need to go down different paths. It began when Stewart realised that it couldn't be done even mortgaging the house. They would have to take advantage of the chances that came along. Even if they didn't fully achieve what they wanted at the moment.
Alex: “I would go from circuit to circuit taking my leathers with me. I was hoping for a last minute rider no-show where they would ask me to sub. Sometimes it happened. For example, when the volcano (editor's note: Eyjafjöll, in 2010) grounded all the flights in northern Europe, a Norwegian rider didn't show. It was a SuperSport race and I was there. I hadn't raced for months, but in qualifying I finished on the front row. In the race the bike broke down. But I thought: if after months of being inactive I can still do it, I must not be too bad.”
And his self-confidence reached the next level.
“And do you know Sam's story?” continues Alex. “Well, he went to the Birmingham Motor Show. He didn't even have a sponsor, but easy as you please, he explained to the sports director of a team that no, he had a sponsor, and that he would pay. I objected: are you out of your mind? And he said: don't worry. I'll ride in the race, win it and then we'll see. He'll be the one to decide whether or not to send me home. He went, he won, they kept him and, at the end of the season, he even won the title. At Brands Hatch, in pit lane, we said to each other: these are stories to tell the grandkids.”
So the two went down different paths. Changing paths, the riding style also differed a bit. Necessarily: “Moto2 bikes and Superbikes want to be ridden differently” Sam points out. “So Alex seems like a smoother rider than me now. But only because that's the way the bike needs to be ridden. Otherwise he would be just as aggressive as I am...”
It makes one wonder if being so competitive might not depend precisely on the fact that they are twins. Because if it is true that your “identical twin” is your greatest friend, he is also the first rival you meet in your life.
Alex: “it's probably true. We never play. We always compete. A few days ago, we went out to play a few holes on the golf course. The first eight were played light heartedly and chatting. Then, as we got closer to the back nine, the chitchat died down. Silence fell. The match began...”
Alex against Sam. Sam against Alex. “And yet, we have never fought in our lives.” The relationship is so good that sometimes (like at the Misano WSBK round) Sam has worked as a mechanic for Alex. Other times the opposite has occurred.
And Wilfred? Was he right? Does passion lead to success and success lead to money? Did Stewart and Donna pay off the mortgage?
Sam: “Some money is coming in now. I began to get the idea that maybe the winds could have changed in 2011, the year after I won the title. But I wasn't very sure. For a while I continued to live in a very, very modest context...” Alex: “Dad and mum have really done a lot. It's nice now to be able to pay them back. They come to all the races. The next one will be at Laguna Seca. It'll be their first time in California and it will also be dad's birthday. Sam will come too. We'll have a party. We really owe them a lot. And not only in financial terms. They taught us something very important: distinguishing good from bad. We owe them and Grandpa Wilfred a lot.
Wilf was right: money is strange. It has the power to make you unhappy when there is none, but having it doesn't guarantee that you'll be happy. If I get out of bed every morning, it isn't to make money; it's to get on a bike.”
Photo: Costantino Di Domenico e PhotoMilagro