As the MotoGP series edges towards the start of its 67th season, Eugene Laverty believes a point scoring finish among the top 'Open' machines is a realistic target for his class debut.

Laverty is one of four promising rookies to make the step up to the series aboard Jorge Martinez Aspar's 'Open' Honda and the preseason has been one of slow and steady adjustment. Having improved his lap time by over half a second from the first Sepang test to the second, the 28-year old was 19th fastest at the Qatar shakedown.

What pleased Laverty more than anything was his proximity to team-mate Nicky Hayden. The American's best time in the final preseason test was just 0.2secs faster but Laverty posted ten laps in the 1min 56s on the second and final day as opposed to Hayden's five.

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Speaking to before the dramatic announcement that title sponsor Drive M7 was pulling its funding from the team was made, Laverty believes his performance during the shortened Qatar test bodes well for Sunday's race.

"If I had a rookie team-mate then I might not know what he's capable of but with Nicky I know that when he was at Ducati he was racing with Dovizioso race in, race out. He's obviously won the championship before so it's nice to see that at the moment I'm matching his pace," he said.

"I think people see the position and that it's lower compared to some of the other rookies that have come in. When you look at where my team-mate is, the likes of Crutchlow and Bradley [Smith] were a long way off their team-mate right from the beginning so it's nice that I've adapted quite quickly and I'm a lot closer [to my team-mate] than where those rookies have been before."

The Northern Irishman has also taken comfort from the fact he is yet to make the most of the extra grip provided by Bridgestone's softer tyre compounds, meaning there is still more to come in a one off lap. Along with improving this aspect, his aims for round one are clear.

"I would like to be in the points. It's difficult to say much more on where we're going to be but in terms of the 'Open' class pace we're right there. I'd like to be in the top three of the 'Open' and to score points overall. In Qatar the lap times seem to be closer than what they would be in somewhere like Sepang. Getting that one lap pace into the 1min 55s would be nice and then in the race [I'm aiming for] the 1min 56s."

Laverty was speaking while waiting to catch his flight to Doha on Tuesday. It was then, he said, that the reality of the upcoming weekend set in.

"It's not something I thought about earlier in my career. I'd almost say the last ten years have been building towards this point. My year in 250s seemed like a step towards my dream but I never thought that I could reach the top class."

MotoGP FP1 gets underway at 16.55.