4 February 2014
Frustrating start to Sepang MotoGP test for Michael Laverty
'It could be three groups in MotoGP: Factory bikes, new Open and the CRT evolutions. I'll do my best and see what we can do' - Michael Laverty
PBM's Michael Laverty managed only 14 laps in total on the opening day at Sepang after a stuttering start to the official 2014 pre-season testing schedule.
The Northern Irishman was left on the back foot following a mix-up over the team's Brembo brake callipers and engine trouble.
Laverty, who is preparing for his second season in MotoGP with Paul Bird's team, explained: “We had some brake issues at the end of last season and at the very last test [at Valencia] when we were trying lots of different bikes, the callipers got mixed up and unfortunately we ended up shipping the good ones back to Brembo and came here with the ones that didn't work.
“So we had a bit of a nightmare this morning when we realised. We messed about and did a few in and out laps, then found a brake set-up that worked okay - but I got one lap and the engine stopped!
“I basically haven't done a proper lap yet. I'm just waiting for them to change the engine, then hopefully I'll get a few laps today to blow the cobwebs out.”
Laverty is using last season's ART engines at the opening test but the former British Superbike frontrunner is hoping for an upgrade from Aprilia in time for the opening round of the world championship at Qatar in April.
“It's last year's [ART] engines we're just using up really. We're hoping to get something new from Aprilia in time for Qatar, hopefully what Espargaro finished last season with [at Aspar],” he said.
“So our engine spec for testing at the moment is not really that strong, especially when compared with the Open class Yamaha in the top three this morning. There'll be some tough competition in the Open series this year. Hopefully Aprilia can bring us something a little faster.
“For testing we're looking more at working on the electronics. We took a big step forward at Valencia with some electric upgrades on corner entry,” Laverty added.
“We were hoping for more upgrades for throttle connection from Magneti Marelli, because they need to fix that at their end, but it didn't arrive for this week.”
Laverty is satisfied with the performance of the PBM chassis and has made big strides after the team's discovery that issues they believed were linked to the chassis were actually caused by the electronics settings.
“When we had the electronic breakthrough at Valencia, we realised a lot of the things we were trying to fix with the chassis were actually caused by the electronics,” he said.
“Once the bike finally stopped as it should do when you shut the throttle, it changed the chassis. I thought, 'now we have a chassis that feels quite nice'.
“The PBM chassis is a good bit of kit. I'd like to try moving the fuel tank and weight distribution, but the chassis and swing-arm fundamentals are fine and this test is mainly about electronics for me.”
On his prospects for the 2014 season, Laverty says a lot will depend on the level of input from Aprilia. He remains uncertain over the delivery of pneumatic valves and seamless gearbox by the manufacturer, predicting that something may be available mid-season.
“A lot depends on Aprilia. We need them to delivery more speed engine wise. If they come with something a bit more competitive it should be a good fun season,” he said.
“It's very unclear [when pneumatic valves and a seamless gearbox might arrive from Aprilia]. When we spoke at the end of last year I thought the pneumatic valves and [seamless] gearbox may have been with the new engine for the start of this year. That's not going to happen.
“Maybe by mid-season something might be available, but I expect Ioda [running the full ART machine] will get preference on anything new. I'm just hoping the upgrade we get for Qatar will be a good step forward and something that we can race.
“At the minute the Open class Yamahas and Hondas are obviously going to be a step above, but the two Aprilias, two PBMs and two [Avintia] Kawasakis should all be close,” he added.
“It could be three groups in MotoGP: Factory bikes, new Open and the CRT evolutions. I'll do my best and see what we can do.”
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