Belfast Telegraph

Eugene Laverty on brink of Superbike glory

By ROY HARRIS

Eugene Laverty begins his final push for the FIM World Superbike Championship in the penultimate round of the series at Magny-Cours in France on Sunday.

The Monaco-based Toomebridge rider is currently in second position - 23 points behind Tom Sykes - following victory and third position at Laguna Seca last weekend.

Laverty and Sykes both have seven victories, but the key statistic is the number of non-finishes -- Sykes has three and Laverty five, which could well be the significant numbers when the championship concludes at Jerez in a fortnight.

Laverty's factory Aprilia team-mate Sylvain Guintoli is also well in contention, a single point adrift in third.

There are still 100 points up for grabs in the final four races and Laverty is in a confident mood.

"I'm definitely back in the hunt for the championship," Laverty said.

"I'll be giving it 100 per cent in the final two rounds and we'll see where we end up. I struggled at Magny-Cours last year, but the RSV Aprilia has come on greatly since then and I hope to be seriously challenging at the sharp end come Sunday's races.

"Jerez is our official test track, so we would hope to be on the pace there.

"I know I have had too many DNFs this year and it is imperative I finish the last four races, preferably in front of Tom and Sylvain."

Two sensational rides by Laverty at Laguna Seca catapulted the 27-year-old right back into title contention.

"Those were two hard races in California," he added.

"Things were just not perfect as I had grip problems throughout the weekend.

"In race one I managed to make the podium by overtaking twice on the last lap while in race two I bided my time to try and save my tyres, just staying in contact with the leaders before overtaking Davide Guigliano for second four laps from the end.

"I then overtook Tom Sykes in the same place two laps from the end, holding on to take the win in what was probably one of my best ever races."

The momentum has swung Laverty's way recently, with three wins and a third in the last four races, making the decision by Aprilia not to retain him in World Superbike next season somewhat strange.

Aprilia wish to keep him as part of a MotoGP Aprilia CRT squad, although he has been in talks with the Pramac Ducati MotoGP team, so he has plenty of options.

On his Twitter page, Laverty joked: "Stopped by McDonald's about that job vacancy they had last week. GONE. I'll ask again after Magny-Cours."

Laverty would be keen to stay with Aprilia, but is not ruling anything out at the moment.

It would be a huge boost if he stood on top of the podium at Magny-Cours on Sunday.

Current World Superbike Championship top six positions: Tom Sykes 361 points, Eugene Laverty 338, Sylvain Guintoli 337, Marco Melandri 319, Chaz Davies 259 and Loris Baz 180.

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