Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport

Laverty craves a podium finish after grand journey

By Paul Lindsay

It's been a non-stop few weeks for Monaco-based Ulsterman and Suzuki World Superbike star Eugene Laverty.

Having travelled in excess of 20,000 miles to fulfil his World Superbike commitments with Voltcom Crescent Suzuki at Donington Park before heading to Japan and Australia to test Suzuki’s all-new prototype MotoGP machine, the Toomebridge lad is now en route to Misano in Italy for this weekend’s seventh round of the series.

“It’s fair to say these past few weeks have been one hell of an adventure,” said the 28-year-old, who has scored two podiums this year.

Speaking of his Japanese adventure, he recounted: “My brother John, who is also my manager, accompanied me on the epic journey and helped make it a trip to remember. Upon arriving in Osaka, we jumped on a train across Japan to Hamamatsu to visit the headquarters of Suzuki Racing.

“It was a great honour to be shown around the racing department and meet so many enthusiastic SMC staff.

“Japanese cuisine is among my favourites so I was pretty excited, but John wasn’t so sure how to operate the chopsticks at first but he got there in the end,” joked the mischievous Ulsterman.

Laverty’s opening test aboard Suzuki’s prototype MotoGP machine, which is expected to make a return to full-time competition next year, was at Okayama in Japan.

Following a brief few laps in a car with Suzuki test rider Takuta Tsuda, Laverty was let loose on the bike under the watchful eye of experienced technician and fellow Irishman Tom O’Kane.

“At the end of the three-hour session I’d clocked the fastest-ever two-wheeled lap of the Okayama circuit; a whole one second faster than my goal,” he smiled.

“I’d expected to struggle to get a feeling for the tyres and brakes but it wasn’t a big hurdle for me. My transition to a MotoGP machine was seamless and I was in

good spirits ahead of the upcoming two-day test in Phillip Island, Australia.”

Sadly the Aussie test didn’t go quite to plan at Phillip Island, with Laverty suffering a monumental crash on only his third lap at turn one, as he candidly explained.

“I was scheduled to test for two days alongside Randy de Puniet, but due to the bad weather we weren’t able to do so many laps.

“The test couldn’t have started out any worse as after just three flying laps I suffered a huge crash.

“I was incredibly lucky to escape with just a fracture in my foot but the bike wasn’t so fortunate. It was the biggest crash of my career and I counted my blessings that I wasn’t seriously injured.”

Eugene then had to make his way to Sepang for the next round of the WSB Championship, which didn’t promise to be much fun, riding injured in hot conditions.

“It was certainly quite a contrast to the bleak conditions we’d met in Phillip Island!” he said. “I was worried that it would take time to reacquaint myself with my Suzuki Superbike, but it felt like I’d never been away,” he added.

“We were looking good during practice and although I only qualified seventh, I was confident of a strong showing in the races.

“Race one was fantastic and I climbed the rostrum for the first time since winning the opening race, despite struggling to feel my foot in the last few laps.”

Despite only finishing ninth in race two at Sepang, Eugene is confident he can mount another podium challenge this weekend at the Marco Simoncelli Circuit.

“We’ve made a breakthrough lately and my aim is to fight at the front. A race win would be just reward for our hard work,” he said.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph