Eugene Laverty will wear a special retro-green helmet design in memory of a close family friend, during this weekend's Catalunya MotoGP round.

The Aspar Ducati rider, who celebrates his 30th birthday on Friday, was named after Eugene (Gene) McDonnell.

McDonnell was tragically killed during the Junior Isle of Man TT race, just one day after the Laverty twins (Eamonn and Eugene) were born, on June 4th, 1986.

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Like older brothers Michael and John, it was Eugene who grew up with a burning desire to race motorcycles - just as their father Mickey had done during the 1970s and '80s, before switching his focus to helping local riders.

Gene McDonnell was born and raised in Portglenone, 20 minutes from the Laverty family home in Toomebridge. Mickey Laverty supported Gene in his bid to climb the racing ladder and in 1985 he became the 350cc Irish Champion.

1986 then looked set to be a breakthrough year for Gene's career as he fought to become Formula 2 world champion.

"It'll be a great honour to wear a replica of Gene's helmet this weekend in Barcelona," said Eugene Laverty. "Gene was destined for great things before his untimely death and I'm proud to be able to carry his name at the pinnacle of racing.

"Gene's brother Ciaran [pictured] came up with the idea of the tribute helmet and I'm really excited to see how it turns out. I owe a huge thank you to my sponsor Shoei for supporting this project.

"A few of Gene's family members will travel to Barcelona to join us for the weekend and I would love to achieve a top eight finish in his memory.

"Gene was an incredibly brave man and so I will wear his helmet with pride this weekend at the Catalan Grand Prix."