Eugene Laverty has admitted to Crash.net
that his future lies away from MotoGP, after failing to secure 2016 Ducati machinery for next season.
The Northern Irishman will now return to the World Superbike Championship, where he finished title runner-up in 2013. Laverty's team is still to be officially announced, but he will headline a new factory-supported Aprilia project with SMR
Laverty is confident it will allow him to fight for the World Superbike Championship in 2017. “That's the clear objective,” he said.
At Assen in June - on the back of a strong, consistent first half of the season - Laverty made it known that his intention was to remain in MotoGP, despite interest from several factory-backed World Superbike teams.
The 30-year-old even turned down a chance to partner Jonathan Rea in Kawasaki's title-winning squad, as he sought to further his career in MotoGP beyond his current two-year stint.
But Aspar Ducati's signing of Alvaro Bautista for 2017 effectively put paid to Laverty's hopes.
The Spaniard, who won his 125cc title with Aspar ten years ago, will receive Desmosedici 2016 machinery, which recently took Andrea Iannone to victory in Austria.
However Ducati could not stretch its resources to provide the same equipment for Bautista's team-mate.
“[In 2017] it's going to be one GP15 and one GP16 for the Avintia and Aspar teams,” Ducati Corse Sporting Director Paolo Ciabatti confirmed to Crash.net
in Austria. “That's been decided.”
That decision, coupled with the possibility of returning to World Superbike aboard race winning machinery, finally 'tipped the balance' in favour of WorldSBK for Laverty.
“I've been pondering going back to WorldSBK for a while, including when the Kawasaki seat could have been available, as I have unfinished business there,” Laverty told Crash.net
“At that time I was still unsure of what was available in MotoGP, so I didn't want to jumping the gun until I really knew what was on offer here.
“I kept pushing to try and get a GP16. But when I knew that my team-mate was going to be on one and there was just going to be a GP15 [for me] it was a case of head over heart. Because you can say all you want that it's 'just a little bit different'.
"Ultimately, it was the competitiveness of the machinery that tipped the balance for me.
"I would really be up against it in MotoGP if I was to continue riding a two-year-old bike, whereas in World Superbikes I will have a bike and team capable of winning races each and every race weekend. At the end of the day the very reason I go racing is to win.
"The most difficult part of this decision was informing my crew of six mechanics that I would be leaving the team at the end of the season. Those guys have really been there for me over these past eighteen months and never lost faith in me, even when I returned from injury and I was well off the pace. They remained patient and helped me get back to form and for that I'll be forever grateful.
"I feel that I have improved a lot during these past two seasons and as a result I am much more complete as a rider. Perhaps in the past I wasn't ready to fight for a world title, whereas now I feel that I've ironed out my weaknesses and I'm ready for the challenge.
"Perhaps I could return to MotoGP one day as World Superbike champion, that really would be something very special."
Laverty is eleventh in the world championship standings and the second highest of the six satellite Ducatis. He claimed a career best fourth in Argentina and finished sixth in Sunday's wet Brno race.
With Laverty leaving, Yonny Hernandez is set to remain at Aspar alongside Bautista, thus completing the 2017 MotoGP rider line-up