By Stephen English
New experiences are always tough. Whether it's a first day at school or the first day at a new job. In most instances people are given time to adapt and find their feet but in world championship motorsport you're expected to hit the ground running and be on the pace immediately.
For MotoGP rookie Michael Laverty the challenge is compounded by a brand new machine and lack of grand prix circuit experience, the Ulsterman having spent the majority of his career racing Superbikes in Britain.
Even so Laverty has adapted well to MotoGP and impressed many paddock regulars with a series of strong races to start the season, notably a best-yet 13th place in the Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez.
On the opposite side of the Paul Bird Motorsport garage, Laverty's team-mate Yonny Hernandez is able to enjoy the benefits of the proven ART machine. But there is also no possibility for Laverty to share data with his team-mate in a bid to increase the speed of development on the all-new PBM bike.
"The hardest thing is not having a reference from a team-mate and someone to keep you on your toes," confirmed Laverty. "Some days you could be having a hard day and your team-mate could find something and it makes it a lot easier to try and find solutions."
Having to bear the brunt of development is a task that Laverty admits to enjoying, but with limited testing available race weekends are usually the only opportunity to try changes to the bike.
In recent races, Laverty has seen his pace stay constant relative to the race leaders, but his rivals have been able to find more performance and as a result the 31 year old has found himself in "no man's land":
"The last couple of races have been hardest because I've felt that the gap to the fastest has stayed constant but that Barbera, Corti and the FTRs have improved. The last couple of races I've been in no man's land; I'm faster than Staring, Abraham and Pesek but Petrucci, Barbera and Aoyama are faster than me and I'm hanging in the middle. That's where we need to understand where to improve the bike and get back to their level. Look at Edwards at Indy and Brno - he's been right on it and matching Espargaro."
Aleix Espargaro continues to be the benchmark that CRT riders aim towards and while the Aspar ART racer has consistently been the fastest CRT this season, and routinely mixing it with prototype riders, there have been occasions where Laverty has had similar pace to the Spaniard.