Belfast Telegraph

Eugene Laverty is aiming to score a perfect 10

By Paul Lindsay

The Termas de Río Hondo circuit in South America is a far cry from Aghadowey and Kirkistown, where Toomebridge MotoGP ace Eugene Laverty grew up learning his trade.

But it's at the Argentinian Circuit where Laverty will be looking to score his best ever MotoGP result this weekend with the Aspar Ducati team, following an impressive 12th-placed finish last weekend in Qatar.

Now based in Monaco, Laverty suffered a torrid pre-season with injury and mechanical gremlins after he switched from Open class Honda to customer Ducati machinery.

Despite that, last weekend's finish matched his best MotoGP result to date.

Aided by the eleventh-hour introduction of a new GP14.2 Ducati engine and growing confidence through the season opener in Qatar, the Ulsterman now believes he can push on with realistic hopes of a top-10 finish - possibly this weekend.

"Argentina is one of my favourite circuits on the calendar," he explained en route to South America for this weekend's round two MotoGP action.

"I went there for the first time last year and straight away I loved it.

"Now I have a year of experience in MotoGP and we have found some confidence with the Ducati, so I am going to Argentina feeling very optimistic.

Laverty's 12th place came after the worst possible start under the floodlights in Qatar, when his Aspar Ducati refused any type of traction and went sideways off the line.

So the question is, what can we expect this Sunday at one of his favourite circuits?

"It is difficult to predict who will be competitive in Argentina because the new electronics have changed everything this season," he said.

"My riding style suits the Termas track and it was good to see that after my injuries during the winter my body responded well in Qatar.

"I am pretty much back to full fitness now and my confidence is also high so the objective in Argentina will be to try and qualify for Q2 and maybe fight for a top-10 finish on Sunday."

Also in action this Sunday is reigning World Superbike champion - and 2016 series leader - Jonathan Rea, who will be looking to extend his lead even further during round three at Aragon in Spain.

The factory Kawasaki pilot has impressively won three out of the opening four races this season, with only his KRT team-mate Tom Sykes able to get the better of him in race two, last time out in Thailand.

Now back in Europe and with a commanding 29-point lead, Rea is quietly confident that he can keep his almost faultless run going as he looks to defend the title he so richly deserved last season.

"After the positive start to the season we have had I am really excited to go to Motorland Aragon," he said.

"We had a great test there in November last year with the new bike, and it showed it had a lot of potential. Motorland is a circuit that always produces good close races, although some of our rivals are strong there, so the first day on track will be critical for the set-up."

Some of the toxic atmosphere from last year's MotoGP finale spilled over to the Qatar season opener, with fans booing certain riders on race day.

Jorge Lorenzo and Marc Marquez were jeered on both the grid and podium. Reigning champion Lorenzo produced a 'zip your mouth' gesture several times after claiming victory.

"Well I think we didn't do anything wrong during the last months. We just concentrated on going very fast," Lorenzo said in Argentina yesterday.

"I won the championship. Marc tried to do his best in the 2015 season and is starting this season like me - trying to be professional, trying to be the best on the track and we are risking our lives in the process. So I don't know what we did wrong. Just be very fast and beat some riders."

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