Factory Aprilia title hopeful Eugene Laverty expects reigning champion Carlos Checa to be a tough nut to crack at the opening round of the World Superbike Championship at Phillip Island on February 26.

Laverty, who took the wraps off his RSV4 machine during the team's official launch in Milan this week, assesses this year's line-up in the championship as the "toughest I've ever faced" but the Irish star is fitter than he's ever been and ready for the challenges ahead.

"In just three weeks time the curtain will fall on the 2012 season and I'm faced with the toughest line-up ever seen in the World Superbike Championship. It's not going to be easy but that's what makes it interesting," said Laverty.

"I fully expect the season opener to be tough work down under at Phillip Island as Carlos Checa will be hard to beat on the Ducati around that circuit.

"In my eyes the first two circuits of Phillip Island and Imola will be the toughest of the year for the Aprilia so if we can be strong there then I believe that we can be strong anywhere.

"I couldn't be more pleased with the entire set-up and Phillip Island can't come soon enough. I enjoyed a ten-day break in America at the beginning of January and my fitness level is now at an all time high," added Laverty.

"Every winter I like to take my fitness up a notch on the previous year and then maintain that level throughout the season. I like to do things properly as I put a lot of emphasis on my base level of fitness and these minor improvements are time-consuming but very rewarding in the long run."

Laverty's brother John returns to the MCE British Superbike Championship this season in the new Splitlath Redmond Aprilia team following an horrific crash last season that threatened his career and Eugene is thrilled his older sibling is back in action.

"The highlight of the new year has been the news of my brother John signing for Splitlath Aprilia in the British Superbike Championship alongside Florian Marino.

"Watching John's rehabilitation has been a real lesson in professionalism as he's dedicated his entire life to getting back to full health and fitness," said the 25-year-old.

"It's incredibly hard for active sportspeople to be the perfect patient in the recovery process but John has been just that and did everything correctly.

"I have little time for wannabe heroes chasing a pat on the back by turning up at an event looking like a corpse.

"I've seen it too many times only to read of the rider landing back in hospital a fortnight later due an infection almost taking their life away. John is aiming to get back on a bike for the first round of the BSB championship, however if he's not quite ready he'll be smart enough to sit it out.

"Either way it'll be an incredible achievement to be back racing after the long list of injuries he sustained last summer."


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