Grass is greener for Eugene Laverty over at Suzuki
Despite increased speculation that he would make the switch to MotoGP next season, Monaco-based Ulsterman Eugene Laverty – who finished second in this season's World Superbike Championship – has been confirmed as Crescent Suzuki's number one rider for the 2014 WSB campaign.
Some may say it's a risky move for the man from Toomebridge, who recorded nine wins on his way to second place in the global series this term, but Laverty is up for the challenge and looking forward to working with Paul Denning and his passionate UK-based Suzuki team – starting with his debut test at Jerez on November 25 and 26.
Speaking from Monaco, Laverty said: "It's looking good for Suzuki at the minute with so many announcements, and for me, as silly as it may sound, there are fewer and fewer teams that race to win these days.
"But Crescent Suzuki has that mindset of racing to win rather than just for business and they want to be at the front. That impressed me."
Laverty is fully aware of the task ahead, joining a team that, worryingly, have only recorded three podiums in as many seasons at world level.
When stacked up against the might of Aprilia – whom he rode for this season – the comparison is frightening, with Laverty and Sylvain Guintoli recording 33 podiums between them in just one campaign.
Taking those statistics into consideration, how competitive can Laverty realistically expect to be in 2014?
"My intention is to remain as a front runner in 2014, and yes it's going to be a tall order, but I'll know better after I ride the bike at the end of this month, and after that I can make some goals. We will just have to see," he said.
One major positive is that he will take his chassis technician to Crescent Suzuki. Moneyglass man Phil Marron, who also happens to be Laverty's brother-in-law, has a wealth of experience and will step up as his crew chief in the Suzuki team.
On his racing connection with Marron, Laverty explained: "Phil and I can carry on from what we've already learned in World Superbike.
"I'm motivated and I still want to win. So we will be trying to fight our way towards the front."
Looking at the deal, it appears the opportunity to test Suzuki's current MotoGP prototype during the 2014 campaign was a major 'carrot' from team owner Denning to lure Laverty into his camp.
And if Laverty is – as many believe – prepared to sacrifice a WSB title bid in 2014 to fast-track himself into MotoGP with Suzuki on the factory GSV-R in 2015, I hope it's a gamble that pays off.
Time will tell.
Openly discussing the MotoGP potential, Laverty said: "Yeah I've discussed testing the MotoGP bike with them.
"For me I have to look towards the future and I'm really interested in that project and I'd like to return to the MotoGP paddock.
"I could have possibly gone there in 2014 with Ducati but I want to be competitive when I do.
"I've been patient for a lot of years now – it is five or six since I left that paddock," he said, referring to his 250GP days.
"I'd like to go with Suzuki, but for now I want to be successful on their Superbike and prove my worth then hopefully get the opportunity to move to MotoGP with them."
In closing, I asked was he disappointed with Aprilia's decision to move him aside in favour of a Guintoli partnership with Marco Melandri for 2014, taking into consideration that he was the most successful rider in the team?
"Yeah of course it's strange for the most successful rider on a bike to be moved aside, but maybe winning isn't everything there," he said.
"There's a bit more to it than that, but now I'm with a team who have pushed hard to get me, and have done on several occasions over the years."