With just two rounds completed in the World Superbike Championship, things haven’t gone exactly to plan for Milwaukee Aprilia Racing’s Eugene Laverty. Returning from the glamorous MotoGP paddock, Laverty had hoped to recapture the same form that gave him 13 victories in the prestigious class, however mixed results leaves the Irishman with 11th in the Championship and 15 points.
We sat down with Laverty to discuss how he is adapting to riding a World Superbike again and whether he would ever consider a ride in MotoGP again?
LTM: Having spent the past two years in MotoGP learning the electronics and using various different tyre manufactures. What was your feeling like when you got back on a World Superbike for the first time in over two years?
Eugene Laverty: The first day on the World Superbike was a wet one in Jerez, I had a good feeling with the bike on the first day in the wet so that put a smile on my face. When we moved to the dry however we realized we had a bit of work to do as we had to get the bike back feeling how it was for me 4 years ago, the main problem is the tyres as I went from Pirelli to Bridgestone to Michelin and back to Pirelli again so that was the biggest thing to get my head around.
LTM: There was various reported offers throughout the 2016 season from Kawasaki and Ducati? What persuaded you to join The Milwaukee Aprilia Racing Team?
Eugene Laverty: I was speaking with Kawasaki quite in depth really, however I think Tom Sykes was always going to have first preference with the seat. In some ways, it was his to turn down but I would have been keen to go that way as it’s a world championship winning bike. With Aprilia it was a bike that I knew and my idea was that usually with a new project it takes half a year to get dialed in and to win races so I was thinking coming to Aprilia that I could pick up where I left off and learn everything again unfortunately it hasn’t been as plain sailing as that as the rules have changed a few times in 2014, 2015 and again in 2017 so generally to get the same feeling as I had back then we had to make a few adjustments to the bike, but the good thing with being a factory supported team is we made progress in Thailand and here we have various parts to try out so hopefully we can have that same feeling back.
LTM: What do you think is the bike’s strengths and where would you say the bike would need to be improved the most?
Eugene Laverty: Well usually the bikes biggest strength is its engine, however it hasn’t been very strong for the first two rounds. This weekend we are going to try fix that problem. The biggest weakness is the agility of the bike, the bike is not very good in the tight twisty sections. It seems to be good at the hard-breaking areas as in Thailand we were quick through sectors one and two but when the track got twisty in the final sectors we had a nightmare. The bike felt like a bus. Speed is our focus but if the bike isn’t agile you are unable to race with the other guys so for Aragon we made quite a few changes to improve in that area, hopefully time will tell.
LTM: After a difficult weekend in Australia, you made the switch to the 2013 Aprilia frame which won you many races during that season. Did this change improve your feel of the bike?
Eugene Laverty: It was only a small step forward to be honest, the problem in Superbikes is the one bike rule so we went to Phillip island and Thailand back to back with only one machine so the crashes made it difficult, however I got an improved feeling in the front so that’s a positive. We will look forward to the test on Monday where we can try and improve even further.
LTM: 2015 Superstock Champion Lorenzo Savadori is your teammate for 2017. What is Lorenzo like as a teammate, is there a rivalry in the garage?
Eugene Laverty: Lorenzo is a nice guy, I get on well with him, I think it’s a good mix, I have turned out as the veteran rider whereas Lorenzo is the young learning rider. It’s like a role reversal with me and Max Biaggi in 2012, where I was the young rider and Max was the experienced veteran. We both have different objectives however: My aim is to win a world title while Lorenzo’s aim is to beat the experienced rider. The fact he has been on the bike last year is a big plus to him.
LTM: We are at Aragon this weekend for round 3 of the World Championship, what are your goals for the weekend ahead and what is your overall impression of the Spanish circuit?
Eugene Laverty: My goal this weekend is to get back on the podium. We haven’t been close to that so far this season. Its going to be hard because the Kawasaki’s and Ducati’s are one step ahead of everybody else, but I must set my sights on the podium and getting those big points again. Aragon is a track I really like, I did a lot of testing here in 2013 so I know how the bike behaves around here.
LTM: There has been a lot of divided discussion lately of the new Superbike race 2 grid format, what is your opinion on this new rule?
Eugene Laverty: You have got to look at what’s best for entertainment so that’s what the organizers are trying to do. That’s the rules and we all should abide by them. Sometimes it might favor you as it did with me in Phillip island where after a bad race one I started fourth but in Thailand I crashed near the end of the race one which made me start in 10th position so sometimes the system will work against you and that’s part of the entertainment factor.
LTM: What are your targets for the rest of the 2017 season and do you feel with sufficient progress you could be fighting for the world championship in 2018?
Eugene Laverty: Yep that’s the aim in 2018, I have signed a two-year contract because I knew it wasn’t going to be easy especially against the rivals we are up against because they have stepped it up since I left so we must do a lot of work to catch up on them. I think with Aprilia’s support we could fight for the title in 2018, this year my aim is to win races, especially in the second half of the season I want to be on the podium every weekend so you can get that consistency before the season ends. In terms of championship position at the end of the season, top three is not out of the question, however it’s going to be tough so the main thing to do is show pace.
LTM: You scored some seriously impressive results during the 2016 MotoGP season. Could you see yourself returning to the MotoGP paddock in the near future?
Eugene Laverty: I think never say never, when I left Superbikes, I went to MotoGP because that seemed like the better offer at the time. The same thing happened this year except in reverse as I picked the World Superbike deal as I thought it has more potential. Once this contract is up l will look at my options again, these are the two championships I consider as special. You saw what Aprilia did in the Qatar and I am the test rider so we will keep that door open.
LTM: Finally Eugene what has been the highlight of your racing career so far?
Eugene Laverty: I think the 2013 season was the highlight of my career, I didn’t win the title but from Istanbul on that season I think that was the best patch in my career. Two podiums in Istanbul followed by a win in Laguna Seca then a double podium in Magny- Cours and finally a double win in Jerez. That was such a strong ending to the year while we may not have won the championship, we did a hell of a job that year by winning nine races so I want to get back to that kind of form, I think that’s the one thing that still eludes me is a world title, I have finished a three-time runner up across Supersport and Superbike so I’m back to hopefully become world champion!
LTM: Thank you for the chat! Best of luck this weekend.
Image Via: Motorsport.com