Eugene Laverty tips this year's MotoGP World Championship to be the most exciting in the last 15 years.
The Irishman expects the change from Bridgestone to Michelin tyres and simultaneous introduction of a single ECU software to provide the biggest shake-up since 2002, with the balance of power changing between the manufacturers from one weekend to the next.
“For me it is the most exciting time for MotoGP probably in the last 15 years,” Laverty said. “The change from two-stroke to four-stroke was the last big shake-up and I think these regulations should shake things up again because really every track will be something different.
“We are going to see one bike strong at one track, one bike stronger at another because the teams and manufacturers don't have a lot of data with which to work, in terms of the tyres and electronics. Every racetrack needs to be learned again on Friday and Saturday so I expect every weekend to be different to the last.”
The Aspar rider added: “It looks like Jorge Lorenzo is the favourite. Really I think with the switch to Michelin tyres, they seem made for his style, whereas in the past maybe the Bridgestone tyres really suited the way that Marc Marquez rides.
“I think the rest of us need to learn from Jorge because his riding style is very efficient on this tyre.”
Laverty himself has endured a painful pre-season, receiving hand (and shoulder) injuries at Jerez in November and again at Sepang in February, robbing him of vital track time.
“I injured the left one at Jerez in November, the right one at Sepang, but everything is coming good now,” he said. “Also my right shoulder felt good in Qatar because even at Phillip Island I was having problems, having broken it at Jerez.
“I didn't have the best pre-season with injuries, it was difficult, but the best test was the last one in Qatar. I was able to regain confidence there and finally by the last day I felt like I was riding like myself again.”
Laverty left the last test 20th on the timesheets, but knowing there is more to come from the team's newly-acquired Ducati machinery.
“I finally feel comfortable on the bike but now we are starting to change things to improve our performance. I need to be one second faster, that's clear because that is what the bike is capable of so I think it is fair to say that we are not quite ready but we are getting there and we're starting to understand what I need from the bike.
“The main area that I am having problems with compared to the other riders is in turning. That is the point where the lap time will come from so this has to be our focus. Like I said before on the last day in Qatar we started to understand exactly what we need to change in order to help me make the bike turn better. We have improved in braking, also in the exit, but for sure if we can make the bike turn a little bit better then the lap time will improve a lot.”
Laverty claimed a best finish of 12th during his rookie Grand Prix season, using Aspar's previous open class Honda machinery.
“The Ducati is much more rider-friendly,” he said. “It is much less physical to ride than the Honda from last year, which was so physically demanding. This bike is easier to ride and also the engine is smoother so it is more predictable. I am enjoying riding this bike, I feel like I don't have to fight it quite so much and it works with the rider instead of against him. “
The former WSS and WSBK race winner is one of four competitiors using the (2014-based) GP14.2 alongside team-mate Yonny Hernandez, plus Avintia riders Loris Baz and Hector Barbera.
“We have a few battles that we need to win,” Laverty said of his targets for the year. “There are two private Ducati teams in Aspar and Avintia, so there are three other guys on the same machinery as me and naturally I want to fight with them and beat them. That is the first goal. Then afterwards we want some strong results.
“Last year I didn't finish inside the top ten so this year I want to finish several times inside the top ten and after that who knows? Right now it is difficult to say what the best result could be but I want to be consistently scoring good points.”
Laverty is one of three MotoGP riders injured during the winter, along with Jack Miller and Danilo Petrucci.
Opening practice for the 2016 Qatar Grand Prix takes place on Thursday evening.