By Stephen English

Michael Laverty finished 18th at the San Marino MotoGP, but having battled with Randy de Puniet of the CRT-leading Aspar team throughout race, the Irishman was left feeling optimistic for the upcoming rounds.

Recent races had seen Laverty, who rides PBM's own Aprilia-powered bike, caught in "no man's land" having been unable to fight with the group in front of him, but comfortably faster than Bryan Staring and Lukas Pesek.

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Sunday was a different story with Laverty comfortably faster than the ARTs of Karel Abraham and his own team-mate Yonny Hernandez, before their retirements, and in front of de Puniet in the opening stages:

"It was a bit better today and we were in there fighting in the early laps with a full fuel load," said Laverty. "We've been running heavy all weekend so that obviously allowed me to get more used to the heavy fuel load so I was able to keep the pace nice and consistent."

However when the Frenchman got in front, some mistakes by Laverty meant that he unable to get back within reach.

"The other guys went away a little bit and when de Puniet passed me I overshot at turn one and had to try and claw him back over a few laps and I was getting a tenth here and a tenth there but with three laps to go I made another mistake. But it was nice to be in there fighting with the ART and seeing where it was stronger and where we can improve.

"Overall it was a good race and we finished about a minute and a half from the leader which was what we expected. If we can find another ten or fifteen seconds [over the race] we could have been in the fight for points and that's the half a second a lap we're looking for and that's achievable."

Finding that ten or fifteen seconds could be made easier with the Irishman having been told by PBM that - with Hernandez leaving the team to substitute for Ben Spies at Pramac Ducati - there is an opportunity to race the Columbian's ART bike for the remaining five races of this season.

Laverty will test the ART at Misano on Monday.