Eugene Laverty says he has plenty of 'food for thought' in terms of the key areas of development for 2017 after a three-day test on the Milwaukee Aprilia at Jerez.
Laverty made his World Superbike return this week after two seasons in MotoGP and was joined at the private WSBK/MotoGP test by new team-mate Lorenzo Savadori in Shaun Muir's team.
A runner-up on the Aprilia RSV4 in the 2013 World Superbike Championship, Laverty was encouraged by the performance of the bike, which he says has more controllable power than when he last rode it three years ago.
Wet and damp weather on Monday and Tuesday effectively meant Laverty only had one fully dry day's testing on the bike on Wednesday, but already he has gained enough insight to declare the Aprilia “still a bloody good bike”.
“There's bits and pieces I liked on both bikes. One's got a different engine as well. That's the one I ended up using for the second half of the day,” said the Northern Ireland rider, who tested two new engine specs and chassis parts on the final day.
“We had some problems with that one, to be honest, in terms of engine braking, and that's where I was losing performance. But I really liked the feeling in the mid corner actually. Releasing the brakes and getting on the gas was much better with that one, so that's one positive point, but we lost everything else, so in the end I wasn't able to have the same performance as I had on the other bike.
“So if we were riding tomorrow, what we'd be aiming to do is to get that one point from that engine and try and combine the two in some way,” added the 30-year-old.
“The stronger chassis is still inconclusive, because I'm still not braking well enough. I was improving, but it's just with this Pirelli front tyre I need to squeeze the brake more. This year we hadn't been able to squeeze the brake more, and I got into that style of not braking so strongly, so I need to get back into that style.
“Everybody thinks that it's not like that, and you can't brake like that with a Pirelli front tyre. But you need to really squeeze the brake in the final braking, so I'm improving there, but it takes time. After a season of not being able to do that, I'm having to get there bit by bit.”
Laverty, who lapped in 1m 41.692s to finish 18th fastest overall on Wednesday, says he still has much more to come.
“It's still a bloody good bike, that's for sure. In the wet conditions to be that comfortable on it first time out, to do 20 laps and be as fast on it as we were, it shows the bike still works.
“Yesterday there were some damp spots so I wasn't really pushing, so today was the first day at it, and it's clear there's a bit more to come from me as well. You can see Lorenzo [Savadori] went half a second faster, so you can see there is potential in the bike, I just have to improve my braking,” Laverty said.
“You always want another day, don't you, but I think we've got food for thought for what the bike needs for next year.”
Laverty returns to Pirelli tyres after riding Bridgestone and Michelin rubber in consecutive seasons but says the biggest difference is the RSV4 chassis.
“They're [tyres] still at a really good level, but the difference is the bike. The bike has changed a lot. Even where the guys had it chassis wise, it's different to what I would like from it. So yesterday where I was on it, I really struggled and we kind of looked at what I had here at my last WSBK race, and it was a very different direction,” he said.
“So we changed it already for the first exit this morning and went out on the used tyres and went nearly a second quicker. So that's the thing. The other riders wanted something different from it, whereas I need it to be my bike again. We were getting in that direction, but when you get a fundamental thing that isn't quite working right like engine braking, it really messes up everything.
“It's a chain reaction. So it's good because it's testing," added Laverty. "The one problem I had with the bike I did my fastest laps on was the mid point - getting on the power it made the bike move - and this other bike was much better there. Everything else wasn't as good so we need to combine the positive points of each bike.”