Eugene Laverty was more than content to have equalled his best qualifying performance in the MotoGP class, as a succession of set-up changes brought about 'a massive step' in his overall placing.

Using a new engine for the first time on Thursday that has significant advantages over his winter test motor, Laverty feels he is now in a position to challenge the other Ducati GP14.2s from 14th place on the grid.

"Our season is finally starting now," began the Northern Irishman. "What is it? Day three of our preseason? We're making the most of our time! Yesterday we lost a lot with bike problems whereas today we worked really well and did everything we could with what we had. We really made some progress.

"Now we're in there and in the mix with them [other riders of GP14.2s]. I'm changing the chassis and it's reacting. With the other engine it didn't matter what we did. It was a fundamental problem. We were never going to make it turn.

"The main thing is with the front. That area I was struggling with in braking and turning, we tried everything. Now we had to try and find a direction and once we understood what we needed it was that little support on the front that allowed me to stop the bike and turn better. That's a massive step, like a second and a half compared to what we were doing in the test."

Having struggled to lap in the 1m 56s throughout free practice, Laverty showed considerable pace in qualifying. Never outside the top five in Q1, his final time of 1m 56.186s was an agonising 0.02s off team-mate Yonny Hernandez's time.

Speaking on Saturday night, Laverty revealed that he couldn't shift into sixth gear on his run to the line on his final flying lap, which, by his calculations, lost him three tenths of a second and another place in the time sheets.

"We made progress between the two new tyres," he continued. "We made another step with the chassis and we went faster again. My dashboard is down there, I saw I did a 1m 55.8 and I thought, 'Yes, that's fantastic.' Then when I went to shift into sixth gear it wouldn't go so I had 200 metres of agony all the way to the line. I thought, 'Go on! Go on!' When I saw the lap time it was 56.1, which meant I lost one position. It wasn't the end of the day but I had done everything right.

"I was riding the last two corners, hitting the apex and getting everything perfectly out of the last corner, hitting the apex, getting a bit of a spin, and I thought all the hard work was done. All I needed to do was shift to sixth and it didn't go. But yeah, a typical racer thing of struggling in 1m 57s and then complaining when I don't get a 55!"

As his race debut aboard Ducati machinery approaches, Laverty admitted that knowing who will place where after 22 laps is somewhat difficult to predict, but the GP14.2's top speed will be an added weapon the 29-year old has 'got in my pocket.'

"We haven't had many long runs. The longest we've had in this whole preseason was in FP4, nine laps. It isn't much but we couldn't afford to stay out there. I had to come in and we made a change with the front fork and I went back out at the end, went a few tenths faster and made a change for qualifying.

"We were always working towards improving performance. I'll do what I can and try and stay in there. Nobody knows how it's going to be on these Michelins over the race. It's not a lottery but it will be interesting to see how some riders cope.

"That's [the top speed] something I've got in my pocket. It wasn't something I had last year. Being able to overtake guys... And the bike starts well too. Last year with the Honda I didn't have launch control so having launch control again is like a dream. Hopefully I can get a good start when it counts tomorrow and make use of that Ducati horsepower to try and overtake some guys too."



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