Eugene Laverty 1-2 puts him top of world
Toomebridge man Eugene Laverty is joint leader of the World Superbike Championship after the opening round at Phillip Island in Australia, where he took the Race 2 victory.
But there was disappointment for fellow Ulsterman Jonathan Rea who fought bravely to a brace of eighth place finishes on the Pata Honda.
Factory Aprilia rider Laverty shared the victory spoils with his new French team-mate Sylvain Guintoli, who won the opening encounter down under, and with both men also taking a second place apiece for their efforts on their respective RSV4 machines, they go into round two, in Aragon in Spain in April, tied at the top of the standings on 45 points.
A delighted Laverty said afterwards: "We got off on the right foot. All the work from the past few days has paid off. My Aprilia was fast and it performed as I wanted it to from the first to the last lap.
"In Race 1, I may have been a bit too conservative with the tyres, still taking a nice second place, but in Race 2 I pushed a bit more decisively.
"At the end, when it was Sylvain, Melandri and me, I tried and was able to get away, shaving a few more tenths off my pace.
"The track record two laps from the finish was nice confirmation that we turned up to the races in the best possible conditions – 45 points after the first race are some nice spoils. I've never started a season this well and now we'll be thinking about Aragon and how to stay on this path".
Despite being presented with a cake on the grid to celebrate his 100th World Superbike start prior to Race 2, there was little else to celebrate for Jonathan Rea, whose Dutch based Ten Kate team continue to struggle with their current electronics package.
Usually a glass half full man, Rea looked and sounded disappointed with his weekend's work, saying: "It has been a strange and frustrating weekend for us all.
"To look at the classifications and see where we are, I don't feel it's a true reflection of where we deserve to be. On the other side of that, it's clear how much effort we're going to have to put in to make the electronics better.
"It's our main problem right now and it's clear we need to make a couple of steps forward. We've got a three-day test at Aragon, which we really need. Two finishes is always the aim for the first race, but we leave here still with work to do."
It was an all Aprilia podium in Race 1 with Michel Fabrizio taking the bottom step behind Guintoli and Laverty, after championship favourite Marco Melandri [BMW] was taken out by 2011 champion Carlos Checa [Ducati]. Checa was knocked unconscious in the incident and missed Race Two. Melandri finished third in the second outing.
Dublin's Jack Kennedy made an impressive start to his World Supersport campaign taking 10th place with the Russian-based RivaMoto Honda team. He had been running top four in the early stages but tyres degradation forced a slip down the standings in the closing laps.