Laverty eyeing a big farewell
Monaco-based Ulsterman Eugene Laverty will say a fond farewell to the MotoGP World Championship this Sunday, having given his all on Honda and Ducati privateer machinery for two seasons in motorcycling's premier class.
The Pull & Bear Aspar Ducati rider will make his final appearance during the last round of this year's MotoGP calendar at the Ricardo Tormo Circuit in Valencia before turning his attention to his return to the World Superbike Championship in 2017 with Milwaukee Aprilia.
Laverty currently holds 12th place in the MotoGP standings - he has impressively scored points in 15 of the 17 races run this season -which is a respectable achievement.
Coming into the final round in Spain, the 30-year-old County Antrim-born ace has recorded four top-10 finishes and would love to make it five on his final appearance for the Aspar team.
Speaking ahead of the Valencia round, Laverty said: "It would be nice to finish the season with a great result.
"It is the team's home race, so it's an important one for the team and their sponsors.
"It's difficult to say what the result could be, but a top-10 finish would be nice. That's what we are always aiming for.
"We go into the weekend 12th in the Championship standings, so we will try to finish as strongly as possible."
While Britain's Cal Crutchlow holds a healthy lead at the top of the Independent Rider and Team standings on 141 points - aided somewhat by his two victories this season for LCR Honda in the Czech Republic and Australia - Laverty could still hang onto fourth place.
It would be somewhat ironic if he does and remains above the Aspar team's new signing for 2017, Alvaro Bautista, who won a 125 Grand Prix World Championship with the Spanish team back in 2006.
The 2016 MotoGP season has already produced nine different race winners.
Laverty's best-placed finish was in Argentina during round two, when he came home in fourth.
Recounting that experience, Laverty said: "It was a weird race. The last lap was something a bit special. I think I started it in eighth position and finished it in fourth. It was an incredible race, a race of two parts, because we obviously had to come in to change bikes."
Explaining the closing stages and that crazy final lap, Laverty added: "I passed (Hector) Barbera and (Aleix)Espargaro, then there were riders everywhere and I didn't really know what position I was in until I looked up at the big screen and saw I was fourth afterwards.
"Starting from 17th to come through to fourth is something that I'll remember for a very long time."
The result was Northern Ireland's best premier class finish since Jeremy McWilliams jumped on the Donington Park podium in 2000 behind a certain Mr Valentino Rossi - who was winning his first ever 500cc Grand Prix - with Kenny Roberts Junior coming home second on the factory Suzuki.