Eugene Laverty reached the status of world championship race winner on only his second World Supersport appearance for the Parkalgar Honda team, by snatching a thrilling victory over reigning champion Andrew Pitt on Saturday in Qatar.
The stunned Irishman, who wasn't sure he'd won until later on the slow down lap, promptly dedicated his victory to Parkalgar's former star Craig Jones, who lost his life in racing accident at Brands Hatch last season.
Laverty, who endured two torrid seasons on uncompetitive machinery in the 250cc World Championship before sidestepping to WSS late last season, led for 13 of the 18 laps - but only took victory after slipstreaming past Pitt's Ten Kate Honda on the dash to the flag.
“I was a little confused by my pit board and mid-race I thought it said seventh,” revealed the laid-back Laverty. “I dropped back from the lead and it said fourth so I got back on the pace.
“When I led again I read seventh and I just decided to get my head down and do my best to win on the track and see what happened later; so it wasn't until the second turn on the cool-down lap when Andrew Pitt congratulated me on the victory that I realised I had won. We had discussed my pit-board signals before the race and it was my mistake and it'll not happen again.
“It was a strange race because it was a lot easier to drive and follow than lead; but my Parkalgar Honda CBR600RR is brilliant and I was able to get good drive and pass Andrew early on the straight on the last lap to win,” he continued.
“It is unbelievable that for the last couple of years I have been fighting for points and now I am winning a race on my second attempt with Parkalgar Honda and challenging for a World title. All I can say is thank you to the whole Parkalgar Honda team, Simon, Brains, everyone - not to mention the Parkalgar circuit, Ohlins, Motec and all the team partners.
“I dedicate this win to Craig Jones who did all the work bringing the team to this level,” declared Eugene.
Laverty's victory, which moves him to third in the championship and just four points from early title leader Pitt, was also the first ever for the Parkalgar outfit.
“I can't say enough good things about Eugene,” grinned team manager Simon Buckmaster. “At one point in the race he was looking over his shoulder and I wondered what he was doing – it turns out he was comfortable on the bike. He kept his cool under the most enormous pressure and won, it was a fantastic ride.
“What a job the boys in the team did to put the Parkalgar Honda CBR600RR under him, well done to Brains and the whole squad, I am proud of them all. It was a great team effort and I cannot thank our sponsors enough, in particular Paulo Pinheiro at the Parkalgar circuit because without him none of this would be possible.”
Laverty's team-mate Miguel Praia finished twelfth.
The third round of the 2009 World Supersport Championship takes place at Valencia on Sunday 5th April.