Belfast Telegraph

I'll fight back and make my point: Laverty

By Paul Lindsay

Monaco-based MotoGP star Eugene Laverty is aiming for a points' scoring finishing during this weekend's opening Grand Prix of the season at Qatar.

The Irishman has suffered a tumultuous pre-season, following a move from Honda to Ducati machinery within the Aspar team.

He has suffered numerous confidence denting injuries, which hit his all-important track time on the Aspar Ducati.

But he's hoping to put that behind him and was in good spirits during yesterday's opening free practice session, while also celebrating St. Patrick's Day at the Persian Gulf venue.

Nineteenth in the opening session gives the Toomebridge man something to build on, but he is unequivocal with his expectations, as he explained: "We need points in Qatar and I would like to be chasing top 12, but I need a few more days on the bike to raise my performance level.

"I'm very excited to be racing again and the Aspar team is working hard with me to get me back to 100%."

Laverty injured both his hands and a shoulder in separate pre-season crashes at Jerez and Sepang, leaving him with an uphill struggle to get fully fit, never mind learn how to ride a new Grand Prix motorcycle to his very own high standards.

The Losail International Circuit in Qatar, which is the season curtain-raiser, throws up a unique set of circumstances, being the one and only race of the year when the world's leading races compete under floodlights on hybrid machinery.

Reigning world champion Jorge Lorenzo lead the way in the opening free practice session yesterday on the Movistar Yamaha, with team-mate Valentino Rossi only 0.267sec down on the timesheets. Andrea Iannone on the factory Ducati was third behind the Yamahas, just ahead of Hector Barbera on the Avintia Racing Ducati.

The super-fast Spaniard is competing on the same GP14.2 model that Laverty is riding this season, making him the benchmark for the Irishman, who despite being 19th was just one second down on British rider Scott Redding - who in turn is on a second string Ducati [GP15] with the Pramac Yakhnich team.

Qualifying will take place today with the opening race of the season at 6pm tomorrow. All eyes will inevitably be on Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo and Marc Marquez as they resume a gripping three-way rivalry that provided an exciting finish to the 2015 campaign.

Rossi, who led the standings for most of the season, was forced to start the final race at Valencia from the back of the grid after being penalised for shoving Marquez into the gravel trap with a 'Road Rash'-style kick a week earlier in Sepang.

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