Eugene Laverty admitted he hadn't realised just how highly he had finished in Sunday afternoon's enthralling MotoGP race in Argentina, and explained how his first thought when seeing the result was 'What the hell?!?'
The Aspar Ducati rider bettered his previous best result in the class by eight positions as fourth place underlined the seismic steps he has made since the beginning of the final preseason test of the year.
Locked in a race-long battle with Pol Espargaro and the other GP14.2s of Hector Barbera and Loris Baz, Laverty maintained his cool while those around him lost theirs, executing a late move on Barbera to secure 13 points, enough to push him into eighth in the overall championship.
“I think even at the start of the last lap I couldn't imagine fourth. It was a weird race. Barbera and Pol hit each other. When they rejoined I was between them. Then I overtook Barbera and I saw all that craziness. On the last lap there were just riders everywhere. I didn't know what position until I looked at the big screen and thought, 'What the hell!'
“Starting from 17th on the grid it wasn't a great qualifying position but to get through to fourth... I don't know. You expect something like that when it's wet but this was essentially a dry race. There were some damp patches but to do it in the dry was great.”
Uncomfortable at several points during free practice, Laverty made strides with the feeling of the front-end of his Ducati to ensure he could brake late and as he wanted, a factor that was crucial in the final result.
“The feeling with the front we improved again. I wasn't happy with it on Friday. On Saturday morning again we made another step like we did in Qatar on Saturday. That's progress but I'm sure it showed again in the race that I don't have the same rear grip as the other guys. I make all my time on the front but we have no grip on the exit if we're going to fight with the others.
“[We changed] Similar to what we did on the Saturday in Qatar. It allowed me to brake. I was limited before and I always had problems with a full tank of fuel. Some changes with the internals of the fork allows me to brake late.
“Also the front tyre isn't slipping any more. When I was having all my crashes with the first evolution Michelin. When I was braking with the front brake the tyre was always slipping and leaving black lines constantly. We fixed that in Qatar and then made another step here. It's clear that it's working well when I'm braking against the other guys around me but we need to improve that rear grip.”
On the remarkable turnaround from a nightmare preseason, Laverty added, “It really is. Confidence was very low and not having a good feeling with the bike. To turn it round is great and happened in the Saturday in Qatar. We know I had a different engine in testing and it was bashing our head against a brick wall.
“We were never going to make any headway with that. We started on the back foot but we've made big steps since then. Here's been tricky for everyone. Even for us it's been a bit up and down. We jumped right up there in FP4. The potential is there and it's looking good for Austin.”