Eugene Laverty quickly dusted himself down from a front end spill at turn four to declare himself satisfied with his first feelings with the Aspar Ducati GP14.2 at the post-season test at Valencia.
Tasting Ducati machinery for the first time in his career, Laverty quickly came to appreciate the amount of power at his disposal low down in the rev range while its smooth, linear delivery was also to his liking.
The 2014 spec Ducati, like several of its previous incarnations, was notorious for under-steer, but Laverty felt that when compared to his 2015 'Open' Honda machine the GP14.2 is also more maneuverable.
“The main difference I notice is how much power there is down low, I can really accelerate off the corner,” said the Northern Irishman. “The power is really linear and there when I need it, it's more about controlling the power when we need it.
“The bike is nice to ride. It's quite placid, it's got power up top for the short straights. This is a small track, but the power at the bottom makes it really linear and smooth to ride. I was surprised how quick I was able to ride and kept on the same used tyres. My tyres look a lot better than Yonny's [Hernandez, new team-mate] did after the end of the first session so that's good.
“People have always said the Ducati GP14 under-steers, but I knew from watching before we realised the Honda had problems this year, from onboard videos, the Honda didn't steer either. On the Honda you could cheat it because of the lack of rear grip, you could spin it but this bike has got rear grip so you can't spin it as easily to cheat the under-steer. But I had much more under-steer with the bike I raced at the weekend, the Ducati steers better.
“All the weaknesses we had, the Ducati has replaced them. I'm sure I'll find some flaws in the bike but it's not such a fundamental issue like we had with the bike this year.”
The former World Superbike runner-up spent the morning on the 2015 'Open' electronics package – the Ducati's “works correctly he said, after being “limited” with what you could adjust on the Honda - as he acclimatised himself to the new Michelin tyres, along with the new machinery, that includes a seamless gearbox.
His crash at turn four was the result of having the wrong settings in the front fork, he said, rather than any defects with the French rubber.
“I crashed at turn four. I had been having some problems with the front tyre slipping and chattering and we made some changes to improve that and I got some confidence to push it but that's why I crashed, you have to be careful with the first right hander at this track. I crashed in qualifying with a cold rear tyre and this time I crashed with a slightly colder front tyre.
“The rear has definitely got grip. We were having problems with rear grip all weekend, on entry and exit but now even when the tyre was quite used it still had grip, so that's good.
“The front I couldn't understand yet but it's clear the front fork setting is quite far away from what I need so I can't push the front yet to understand the tyre but the problem isn't the tyre it's inside the fork, so gradually when we start making small changes we'll begin to learn.”
While his 2015 Honda machine received little in the way of development and new parts, Laverty was buoyed by the number of Ducati technicians in his garage. Even Ducati Corse's general manager Gigi Dall'Igna – with whom Laverty worked in 2012 and 2013 – made an appearance, in his eyes showing the Italian factory has a “genuine interest” in the team's fortunes.
“We have Ducati techincians working with us. It was nice to see all the red shirts in the box yesterday and Gigi even called down as well so you can see there is a genuine interest and that we are genuinely being supported. That's always how Gigi has been, we worked together before and even the customer bikes in superbikes used to push us.
“When Chaz was on the bike [Aprilia RSV4 Superbike in 2012] he always used to push us so we knew it'd be good kit. We've got a bit of a mix with testing guys in the box now. Lots of technical support and we've got a base setting whereas last year we didn't even have that.”
Two days after pulling out of the final MotoGP race of 2015 due to issues with a blood blister on his foot (“the toughest decision of my life”) which he now feels has healed adequately, Laverty is hopeful of receiving the latest electronics package at a test in Jerez at the end of the month.
“It's still the open electronics but it works correctly. On the Honda we were limited to what we could do. With the traction control I almost didn't use it because what we were allowed to do on the Honda engine was almost nothing whereas on this Ducati it's allowed to work correctly so it's nice to have traction control again.
“We'll hopefully get the 2016 electronics at the end of this month, we have another test in Jerez. We only had one day off between the end of the 2015 season and the 2016 season so it'd have been a lot to change everything all of a sudden, but hopefully we'll get to try new electronics soon.”