World Superbikes: Laverty dazzles on debut
Yamaha’s World Superbike rookie, Eugene Laverty, fired a warning to his championship rivals with a fourth placed finish and 15th position in race two at Phillip Island to underline his hunger for podium honours.
The 24-year-old Toomebridge lad had to do things the hard way after suffering arm pump during race one and gear selector problems in race two.
It’s a debut that everyone within the sport has been talking about, and having impressively made the final Superpole session on Saturday — eventually qualifying in fifth place — Laverty didn’t take long to have the crowd on the edge of their seats.
He comfortably led the opening race for two laps, before setting into a battle for third, when double race winner Down Under, Carlos Checa (Ducati), cleared off into the southern hemisphere sunset, with current world champion Max Biaggi following him to take a brace of second places.
A three-way battled ensued for the final podium spot in race one, which eventually went to Englishman Leon Haslam on his BMW debut.
Laverty was determined to take fourth place, stealing in at the death to head home his team-mate Marco Melandri.
A bruised Jonathan Rea was also involved in the podium dice at the mid-way point of race one, but the Castrol Honda rider finished 12th after an unforced error.
Rea hammered through the field in race two, to take fourth place right on the line from Leon Haslam (BMW) after 22 pulsating laps. Laverty eyed podium honours in race two, but after shaking off Nori Haga and Haslam in pursuit of his Italian team-mate in third place, he ran out of tarmac. He fought back for a solitary point in 15th.
Laverty said: “In the first race I had arm pump; I had the possibility to go for third but didn’t want to risk my arms. Unfortunately in race two false neutrals killed it for me, leaving me with just one point. On the plus side, we’ve clearly got a very competitive package.”
Laverty and Rea will now prepare for the next round at the newly refurbished Donington Park circuit on March 25-27.