Belfast Telegraph

Eugene Laverty will honour racer he was named after in Barcelona

By Paul Lindsay

Toomebridge MotoGP ace Eugene Laverty will celebrate his 30th birthday this weekend at the Circuit de Catalunya by paying tribute to the man he was named after, Gene McDonnell.

McDonnell was sadly killed in tragic circumstances at the Isle of Man TT on June 4, 1986 - just one day after Laverty was born - when he hit a pony that had been spooked by a helicopter attending the scene of an incident involving Brian Reid at Ballaugh Bridge.

Speaking of the Portglenone man he was named after, and whose helmet livery he will carry this weekend in tribute, Laverty - whose father Micky, himself a racer in the 1970s, went on to help Gene during the '85 season when he became the 350cc Irish champion - said: "It'll be a great honour to wear a replica of Gene's helmet this weekend in Barcelona.

"Gene was destined for great things before his untimely death and I'm proud to be able to carry his name at the pinnacle of racing."

Thirty years after McDonnell's death, Laverty explained the significance of having some of Gene's family with him this weekend in Spain.

"A few of Gene's family members will travel to Barcelona this weekend to join us and I would love to achieve a top eight finish in his memory," said Laverty.

"Gene was an incredibly brave man, so I will wear his helmet with pride this weekend."

Laverty (left) is currently holding 10th position in the Moto GP championship standings aboard the Aspar Ducati, having scored points in each of the opening six races.

"I think we can be really strong and my goal will be to finish inside the top 10 again," he added of his hopes for Barcelona.

"We have come off the back of one of our most difficult weekends having salvaged some points, thanks partly to some other riders being involved in crashes, which keeps our great run of points-scoring finishes going."

Laverty's best result of the season so far came in Argentina, when he upset the form book to take a fairytale fourth place in front of some top Grand Prix factory-supported regulars.

Laverty also holds third place in the Independent Rider and Team standings on 36 points, behind only Pol Espargaro (48) and Hector Barbera (43).

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