Relaxed Laverty set to stay out in front
following the opening round in Australia, the World Superbike Championship gets backs on track this weekend, for the first European round of the season at Motorland Aragon, in the north eastern Spanish province of Tereul.
Joint WSBK championship leader, Toomebridge man Eugene Laverty, has been relaxing and training at his new base down in Monaco, where his mother and father, Micky and Sheila recently visited him.
With a Phillip Island victory and second place already under his belt, and a successful test at Jerez just last month, both he and team-mate Sylvain Guintoli will be looking to consolidate the Aprilia Racing Team's position at the top of the championship standings this weekend.
And Laverty laid down and early marker when he set the fastest time during the first qualifying session.
He topped the first qualifying session at MotorLand Aragon with a time of one minute 58.548 seconds.
The Ulsterman was fastest ahead of British duo Chaz Davies (BMW) and Tom Sykes (Kawasaki), with Davies' Italian team-mate Marco Melandri in fourth.
The fifth fastest time went to Laverty's fellow Ulsterman Jonathan Rea on the Pata Honda who edged out Guintoli, who won the opening race of the season at Phillip Island in Australia, with FIXI Crescent Suzuki's Leon Camier in seventh.
Camier is a doubtful start for the second qualifying session as he crashed after setting his time. The British rider fell at turn 10 and dislocated his left knee and was transferred from the circuit medical centre to Alcaniz hospital for further examination.
Rea had a tough start to the year Down Under with a brace of eighth placed finishes, but with three days of testing now under his belt at the 5.344km Aragon track – and a couple of extra days at Alcarras – he too will be looking for some podium action to kick-start his championship bid.
"We have made some progress this last few days at Alcarras, but it'll be difficult to tell just how much until we're back riding against our rivals at Aragon," explained Rea.
What the test did was increase the confidence levels for Rea who looked and sounded dejected after the opening round at Phillip Island at the end of February.
He added: "I've got a good feeling with the bike now and my confidence is higher than when we left the Aragon test last week, where we really made zero progress.
"We've been working hard on all aspects of the new electronics system and made some in-roads at Alcarras. Our engine braking is now more consistent and I can hit apexes more precisely, whereas during the Aragon test, I felt a bit like a passenger at times."
If anyone should arrive in Spain high on optimism, it will be Dubliner Jack Kennedy, following his successful World Supersport debut in Australia with a rock solid tenth place on the RivaMoto Honda. The 26-year-old qualified fifth in Oz with the Russian based team, but rear tyre issues halted any opportunity of equally that position in the race.
Superpole commences today at 2pm and tomorrow's two Superbike races are live on Eurosport at 11am and 2.30pm respectively. Kennedy can be seen in Supersport action tomorrow at 12.30pm.