19 December 2014
Eugene Laverty: Opportunity knocks
“Aspar have given me the MotoGP opportunity I have been waiting a long time for” - Eugene Laverty.
When Eugene Laverty walked out of the grand prix paddock midway through his second 250cc season in 2008, the young Irishman must have wondered if he'd ever return.
Laverty had scored just 14 points on aging Honda and Aprilia machinery before deciding to cut his losses for a fresh start in World Supersport, probably with words like “once you leave grand prix there's no way back” ringing in his ears.
But Laverty had already taken a WSS podium and went on to win twelve races over the next two years, finishing as title runner-up on both occasions. That brought a step up to World Superbike, where Laverty won races in all four seasons for Yamaha, Aprilia and then Suzuki.
Laverty had been linked with MotoGP before but, wary of his previous grand prix experiences, had been unconvinced by the machinery on offer. Then came the chance to race one of the new RC213V-RS Open class Hondas for the Aspar team.
“Firstly I never wanted to come to MotoGP unless I was sure I was on a good bike in a competitive team. Secondly, during last season, I was convinced Honda would make a much better Open bike for 2015,” Laverty explained. “Once I knew that the Drive M7 Aspar Team would be continuing with Honda my absolute priority was to sign for them.
“This is a top level team, which they have proved over the years, and the bike will be a big step forward from last year so I didn't need to think about it much. Drive M7 Aspar have given me the opportunity I have been waiting a long time for.”
Laverty made his MotoGP debut riding one of this year's RCV1000R machines at November's rain-interrupted Valencia test.
“The first test was fantastic, even though we lost some time to the rain. I rode the old Honda Open but that wasn't important. What we were looking for was to start to establish a feeling and for me to get to know the team and vice versa. I was given an incredible welcome and that made me feel at home. It was a successful test for us.”
Unlike last year's machine, Laverty's 2015 Honda will be powered by the title-winning RC213V Factory class engine. However it will not have the seamless shift gearbox and, like all Open class entries, is required to use the standard ECU system.
“The electronics package on this bike is actually quite basic compared to Superbikes,” Laverty said. “It is a system that restricts the amount of changes you can make so we need to learn how to get the most out of it. Everything else about the Honda is fantastic.”
Of all the changes that Laverty will need to adapt to, the biggest one will be the tyres: “Pirelli and Bridgestone are completely different. There are other things, such as the Honda is smaller and lighter, it's easy to move around on. Dragging your elbow on the ground is not a common thing in Superbikes.”
But having remained on the same machinery just once since 2010, Laverty is nothing if not adaptable.
“I think my adaptability is one of my strong points. I have ridden a lot of bikes over the course of my career. Now and then you might hear a rider saying this bike or that bike suits my style, but the truth is that it's me that adapts my style to the bike. Riding so many different bikes means I have never got into certain habits and I have never stopped learning.”
Laverty will make his debut on the 2015 Honda when the first of three official pre-season tests gets underway at Sepang in February, ahead of a race debut in Qatar on March 29.
“Well, first of all it would be good to be challenging at the front of the Open class and at certain circuits I want to be fighting with the Factory guys,” Laverty declared. “Qualifying could be good for us because we have the soft tyre so hopefully we can take advantage of it.”
Helping Laverty adapt will be the chance to learn from team-mate and former world champion Nicky Hayden.
“I know Nicky from when I rode in 250cc, seven years ago. He was always friendly and nice with me,” Laverty said. “He is a very focused individual who works hard, but he's also charming and genuine. We both come from families of motorcycle racers and we have grown up in competitive environments, so I guess we are similar in that way.
“The biggest way he can help me is obviously in terms of sharing data. Nicky has been a MotoGP rider for a long time so I am sure I can learn a lot from him.”
Laverty's older brother Michael raced in MotoGP for PBM during the 2013 and 2014 seasons. Michael will return to BSB for the new BMW-backed TAS team next season.
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