Eugene Laverty - Q&A

“Max had stepped aside, Sylvain had come in and was strong in testing and I was the guy who … had to challenge for the title. There's pressure there.” sat down with Eugene during the second round of the World Superbike season to discuss his time in the sport, the fantastic win in Australia and testing Suzuki's MotoGP bike on his birthday.
Was Aragon a circuit you predicted might be more challenging than Phillip Island?

Eugene Laverty:
Yeah. I predicted this one and Sepang. But in between those we have good ones at Assen, Imola and Donington. You have to be realistic and not put negative thoughts in your head when you have a day like today when you're eighth and realise that's not bad. Whereas if you come here thinking, 'this could be a good track' and you're in eighth then you're angry.
Do you look at tracks before a season with the team to get a rough idea where you will be strong and where you won't?

Eugene Laverty:
From riding the bike you understand where. It is just more of a preparation for your mindset. You know, Alex lost his head a little bit today because he didn't see this coming and he wasn't able to keep his cool. That's what experience does for you.
Looking back at Australia, it must have exceeded all expectations. Does that rank as your finest win?

Eugene Laverty:
Yeah, it was. The double win at Monza was special, that was my debut win in 2011. But this one was something else. It was an emotional win. We're from Ireland, we're not emotional people but it meant a lot to me with everything going on, being forced out of my team last year and I had to look elsewhere. Testing hadn't been easy. Essentially I had one day of testing before I had to do all the donkeywork as a test rider in the winter. I then got one day in Portugal before I went to Australia so I wasn't ready. So when we won it was nice.
The manner in which you did it was very impressive.

Eugene Laverty:
I wasn't chasing that win, I was chasing the best I could. Our clutch was terrible for getting off the line and we knew it was going to be difficult. We fell back to ninth at the first corner but we were prepared for that. I tried my best and got up into fourth and closed them [the leaders] down. It was really special.
After such a strong start do you now feel under slightly more pressure to perform at that level all the time?

Eugene Laverty:
Not added pressure as we're the underdogs. The only season I felt pressure was the start of last year. Max had stepped aside, Sylvain had come in and was strong in testing and I was the guy who had the second year on the bike and had to challenge for the title. There's pressure there. All the technical problems we had in the first half of the season made that difficult to fulfil our expectations. This time we're underdogs, I don't see any pressure on us.
Does that suit you, being in the underdog role?

Eugene Laverty:
I'm a relaxed character but I also ride better when I'm relaxed. Even when I was fighting for Supersport titles I didn't put pressure on myself. But at the end of last season there was definitely pressure there. I had got to the point in my career when I needed to step up. I had won a race here and there and last year I became established. I won nine races and that's your breakthrough moment. The fact is you're always fighting because there's always a young rider coming along to take your seat. It's important to make that step up and we did that last year.
After riding the RSV-4 for two years it didn't take long to adapt to the four cylinder 1000. Do you feel that's because you have ridden a wide array of machinery in your career?

Eugene Laverty:
I've ridden a lot of different bikes. I've ridden really sh*t 250s that didn't do what I wanted them to do. They didn't work with me so I had to do all I could on the bike to make the difference so I became flexible in my riding style so I can do most things with the bike now.
You had a very trying year on a Honda 250 in 2007 which must have taught you a lot…

Eugene Laverty:
It wasn't bad; it was difficult to get what I needed from the bike. It was the Aprilia the next year [2008]… I don't know what that bike was. There were parts from all sorts in that bike. Randy de Puniet had ridden it for a year and had a lot of crashes on it. I think it was probably less than national level, it was a bit more than club racing level. To look at it the fairing was the same as race winning bikes so you think it's the same underneath but it was a club racing bike in a world championship – it's crazy to think about it now.
I remember you battling for the lower points positions with Manuel Poggiali in Catalunya that year. You said he was riding so badly but he was still able to beat you because of the performance difference. Do you look back on that now as an important learning period?

Eugene Laverty:
That became a memorable race for me because it was as if you were riding a Superbike against a 600. There was a difference in performance and I shouldn't have been able to fight with him. It was fun to be able to do it, frustrating, but fun in a strange way. You learn from riding crap bikes and that's what makes you a stronger rider.
The Suzuki obviously showed potential in WSBK last year but Jules Cluzel finished tenth overall in the standings, Leon Camier eleventh. How did Paul Denning convince you to sign?

Eugene Laverty:
He really wanted me onboard. That was the important factor and that's always been my motto in my career that the team actually has to want you. That showed in the steps we made with the bike. If the team really want you and believe in you then they'll listen to your direction. That's why we've made such quick steps. If they doubt you and you're struggling with a problem, the bike doesn't turn or something, and they maybe think 'he's having an off day, we'll let him sleep on it,' then you just fall behind. Whereas the guys truly believe in us and we've made some big steps. I owe a lot of thanks to my brother because John watches around the track and he said, 'That bike's capable of a lot more than the riders can do.' There were weaknesses with the electronics but he said, 'There's something we can do with that bike' and that's why we're headed in the right direction. It was a brave move.
It's renowned for having a strong chassis.

Eugene Laverty:
It is a good chassis and it does a lot of things that I want from a Superbike that I've never had. There are still other areas that we have to work on and it's a work in progress.
Looking back at preseason. Your first impressions of the bike weren't good at Jerez at the end of 2013…

Eugene Laverty:
No, it was horrendous. It wasn't so much the bike, the bike last year wasn't so bad but the one I had in Jerez… everything that could go wrong did go wrong. The boys went back to the workshop and checked some things. They found this problem with the bike, that problem, why we were having chatter and things began to make sense. It was such a disaster and I couldn't understand a lot of the problems so that probably gave me the impression the bike was a lot worse than it was. We've clearly improved it but I think people think that because we won round one there was a transformation overnight. I had to ride the bike really hard in Phillip Island to win it. We've made progress but maybe if I rode last year's bike in Phillip Island we wouldn't have been far away either, it's a track that suits the bike well. Here [in Aragon] not so much so we need to focus on them to make sure we can maybe get podiums at them.
For a rider is it rare to see a bike make such great strides in a short period of time over preseason?

Eugene Laverty:
Yeah, I didn't expect that because it wasn't as immediate as that in the teams I was in before. I didn't have the experience or the confidence to force it in that direction, as I wasn't 100 percent sure. Having ridden two different superbikes, supersport bikes and the rest, I was quite firm and sure of the direction that we needed to go. Everything we asked for we got. I say immediate but I had two days on a bike in Almeria that wasn't even running so those days were frustrating. A lot of riders might have thrown in the towel but there we did the groundwork, headed over to Portugal a few days later and topped the time sheets.
Has it been the personnel changes that have given the team this momentum?

Eugene Laverty:
It's all well and good me saying what I needed from the bike but we had the people capable of putting that in place and Davide Gentile helped implement it. My crew chief Phil Marron definitely helped me get what I needed from the chassis. They're level-headed guys who knew we were going in the direction that made sense. We weren't chasing a pie in the sky, we were going step by step towards a bike that was suited to me.
When you climbed on a new bike did you have to change your mindset to one where you aren't always expecting to win?

Eugene Laverty:
No, I have to keep the same mindset and try and do the best I can. You can't rule out wins. In Phillip Island if I had thought I would just get top fives then I wouldn't have won the race. It's a strange one when you have to tell yourself to be realistic but at the same time not be pessimistic. There's a fine line between the two, you have to get the balance right. There are also the optimists and that can go the wrong way too. It's with experience, you get your mindset right, you know how to approach it. We're lucky to have it [the Northern Irish calm] because it's not something you can work on!
Looking at 2013 only Bayliss in 2002 and Haga in 2009 finished as runners up with a higher points total than you in the series' history. Is it a source of frustration that you came so close yet didn't win the championship?

Eugene Laverty:
I finished second twice in Supersport. The first year didn't niggle me much as Crutchlow and Yamaha had a much better package. The second year [2010] was the championship that grates on me a bit. I knew that year was ours, we deserved to win it. I don't want to take anything away from Kenan but that was the one. Whereas last year I was winning, Tom was winning, both riders deserved it. You can't dwell on it, as somebody has to win it. It only ever fazes a rider if you lose a championship that deserved to be yours. Last year there were two strong riders.
There seemed to be a definite turning point at the Nurburgring.

Eugene Laverty:
It was a lesson for me because even with a lot of the crashes or technical problems that cost us it looked really bad. Coming back I almost had to be the school teacher and speak to my side of the garage and bring everyone together. Communication had broken down, there were silly problems happening on race day. I had to get people to speak again. That was the turning point. As crazy as it sounds that's what happened. It was a lesson as I feel like the child, I'm the youngest member but I had to take people to the side and almost be a team leader. The proof in the pudding was what happened in the second half of the year. Giving a big speech is a hard thing for us to do from Ireland but it had to be done and look at the results. If I had done it earlier things would have changed. It's a lesson for the future.
I guess at this level if you or a few members of the team are detuned or distracted by half a percent there is going to be a noticeable difference.

Eugene Laverty:
Or if one guy isn't speaking to another. Stupid things like at Nurburgring, the first practice we went out and the gear pattern seemed really strange. We came back into the pits and after two minutes of to-ing and fro-ing there were two guys with two different pieces of paper. It turned out the wrong gearbox was in the bike. That's communication. No one was speaking. It really broke down and I had to get everyone to regroup. It was simple. I said if we want to win the title this is our last chance. In the end it was too late but we gave it our best shot.
Does the dynamic in a team change when you and your team-mate are involved in the championship fight?

Eugene Laverty:
It was frustrating. We fell behind at round two when the engine blew. Each time we'd spend getting back towards my team-mate at the top of the championship we'd have another problem and have to start again. Even when I caught back up with Sylvain at Laguna Seca I thought, 'ok what's going to happen now?' Thankfully at Laguna, Magny Cours and Jerez we built up our lead on him. It kept yo-yoing all year, we always outscored them until our DNF and then we had to go again. I think we were always the fastest side of the garage but we didn't actually overtake Sylvain until there were a few rounds to go.
The mid point in the season - Moscow, Imola - that was really low. Two crashes that were caused by mechanical problems. You'd swear that's a rider making things up, as crashes are usually rider errors. Unfortunately they were influenced by technical problems... Good memories and good lessons let's say.
Looking ahead to this year you are going to test Suzuki's MotoGP bike. Do you know any more details of the test?

Eugene Laverty:
Yeah we already confirmed a month ago the dates so we will be riding it at the end of May, start of June at a couple of different test tracks. I had been looking forward to riding the bike so much but I turned down my first test on the bike because it was too close to [the] Donington World Superbike [meeting]. To ride it in the sunshine at Motegi was probably the ideal opportunity but I had to turn it down as I need to focus on the real job at hand here and not let anything else influence that.
I look forward to riding it. They definitely had to work to get the hardware working. But they're going in the right direction, it's clear they want to race as they're going through that transition from their own hardware to the Magnetti Marelli [system]. They're a really good bunch of boys, I got a good feeling from them when I visited them in Sepang. I got to meet the project leader, Terada-san, in Malaysia. It was really nice to see how enthusiastic he was about me riding the bike too.
Will any expectations come with the test?

Eugene Laverty:
If it had been at Motegi there would be as it's clear where they're good, it's a track they race at. One is a track they don't, in Japan, and the other is going to be really cold in Phillip Island. I like Phillip Island, it's just a pity the weather's going to be sh*t. The test is on my birthday so that's a nice present.
After your time in the 250 class do you feel that you have unfinished business in the GP paddock?

Eugene Laverty:
Yeah, I've had a lot of opportunities to go back there. Three or four years back I had a chance to go back in Moto2 and last year with MotoGP. I had always stuck by my guns and said I'd only go back if the opportunity was right. That's hard and tempting when the carrot is dangled there. You think 'Maybe I can make the difference?' But no, I've been there before when things weren't right. If I get the opportunity to go then great but I don't want to go and just take part. I want to be there and be competitive. There was definitely a bad feeling a couple of years after I left that paddock but you have to forgive, forget and move on. Circumstances were against us at that time.
And finally who do you feel will be the main players in this year's World Superbike Championship?

Eugene Laverty:
We know that Tom is on the same bike in the same team. It's such a strong package. The real surprise I think is Johnny Rea, he's starting to look the real deal again after a few years where he had so many problems with that Honda. Watching him here in Aragon he's really starting to impress me the way he's able to ride it. The two Ducatis and, of course, we know the Aprilias, along with Kawasaki, are the two best bikes in the championship. It's going to be an interesting year as even guys like Baz – he still has a lot to learn but the Kawasaki is by far the best bike out there – will be at the front. It's good to see some young riders in there mixing it up.
Thanks for your time Eugene, best of luck for the rest of the year.

Eugene Laverty:
No worries.

Tagged as: Suzuki , Eugene Laverty

Related Pictures

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Eugene Laverty, Aragon WSBK Race 2 2014
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