Michael Laverty has been one of the MCE British Superbike Championship ’s most consistent performers since the introduction of the revolutionary Showdown format in 2010.
And despite a rocky start to his season with Samsung Honda this term, the former British Supersport champion is well-and-truly back in the hunt — as the series heads to Knockhill this weekend.
The Presteigne-based Ulsterman has taken Suzuki and Yamaha machinery into the Title Fighters’ Showdown since it’s inception, but this year in the official Samsung Honda team, Laverty made an uncharacteristically shaky start to his year — only getting it back on the rails at Snetterton last time out.
Laverty’s BSB race two victory at Snetterton made him the seventh winner in the opening eight races in the hugely competitive series.
With second place in the opener at the Norfolk venue, he leapt up the championship standings to fourth place. But as pragmatic as ever, Laverty is under no illusions at the size of the task, should he wish to be crowned champion on October 14.
“I’d a little bit of bad luck here and there but the biggest thing for me was the tyre issue,” he lamented, referring to the opening three rounds where he just couldn’t get the 2012 specification Pirellis to work on his Samsung Honda.
He added: “We tested most of the winter on last year’s soft tyre and didn’t have any issues, but as soon as we got the 2012 tyres they started tearing on us and we couldn’t quite put our finger on it.
“At Thruxton the tyre fell apart and at Oulton it was just terrible, although I wasn’t fast enough to be at the front.
“We got a test organised before Snetterton and came back on form there. It was a frustrating start and we couldn’t catch a break but Snetterton gave us a clean weekend and we got some decent points.”
This weekend Laverty and the rest of the BSB circus heads to Fife in Scotland for round five at the sinuous Knockhill venue — notorious for inconsistent weather conditions and not a favourite with a large majority of competitors. “The weather is the determining factor on a lot of occasions at Knockhill.
“It’s just a matter of trying to be ready to cope with what the weather throws at you on race day and be as consistent as possible,” was Laverty’s take on the series’ only trip to Scotland each year.
“I’ve always been strong in the wet, but this year on the Honda we haven’t really had any practice in the wet; it’s always been thrown at us in qualifying sessions, so if it’s going to be wet I wouldn’t mind if it rained on Friday or Saturday to improve our wet set-up on the Honda. At the minute I would be worried if we had a dry practice and a wet race day.”
The current series leader is Tyco Suzuki’s Newtownards based Aussie Josh Brookes on 124 points, with 2011 champion Tommy Hill [Swan Yamaha] on 123 and Shane Byrne [Rapid Solicitor’s Kawasaki] third on 108.
Laverty is fourth on 81 with fellow Ulsterman Ian Lowry [Padgetts’ Honda] fifth on 73.
Sixth is Scottish rider Stuart Easton, who misses his home round through injury, with Carrick’s Alastair Seeley needing some solid points to climb away from tenth place [49 points] in the standing on his Tyco Suzuki.
The Showdown format ‘separates’ the top six riders in the championship standings after round nine at Donington Park in September, leaving them to challenge for the BSB title over the remaining three rounds at Assen, Silverstone and Brands Hatch.
The top six Title Fighters start the Showdown on 500 points with the podium credits they have accumulated [3 for a win; 2 for second; 1 for third] over the previous nine rounds added.
The remainder of the grid are pretty much left to spoil the party — with a last day, last race championship nail-biter virtually guaranteed.