Laverty brothers in Germany for historic glory quest
A little bit of motorcycling history will be made on Sunday when Northern Ireland can boast not one but two riders on a MotoGP grid for round nine at the Sachsenring in Germany.
Better still, they are Toomebridge brothers Michael and Eugene Laverty. Eugene stepped up to the world's premier class at the beginning of the year with the Aspar Honda squad in the hugely competitive world of Grand Prix racing, and this weekend he will be joined by his brother Michael, wildcarding on a development Aprilia.
Michael's full time job is with local team Tyco BMW in the British Superbike Championship, where he posted his debut podium last weekend at Knockhill in Scotland - only to be what seemed harshly penalised and demoted to fourth place after a hearing with BSB's top brass and rival team Milwaukee Yamaha over a yellow flag incident with Josh Brookes.
In between British Superbike rounds, Laverty can often be found in a number of UK airports, travelling to official and often clandestine tests with the Italian Aprilia squad.
A wildcard clause was written into Laverty's development contract with Aprilia at the outset, so when under-performing Italian Marco Melandri was basically shown the door in a "mutual consent" press release only yesterday, Laverty immediately started packing and planning for his trip to the East German Circuit.
Speaking en route to Sachsenring yesterday, Michael said: "It will be a tall order jumping on Melandri's bike and competing against guys who race full time in MotoGP, but I feel I can adapt pretty quickly and do a reasonable job."
The current MotoGP race bike that Laverty will ride for Aprilia this weekend is an RSGP machine, which is basically a derivative of the RSV1000 road bike with pneumatic valves and a seamless shift gearbox fitted into a hybrid chassis.
Michael last competed in MotoGP with PBM Motorsport in 2014 and the call up does not come as a shock, but the Presteigne-based Ulsterman made it quite clear that his main focus will remain in British Superbike… for now.
"I'm very happy where I am in BSB and I said when I went back, that's where I wanted to be, back at the sharp end competing for wins, which is what we did at Knockhill," he explained.
Speaking of MotoGP, he added: "If I'm honest, if the right opportunity came up in World Superbike or MotoGP and I still felt I was fast enough and had the desire to do it, I'd have to consider it. But I'm very happy in BSB with Tyco BMW and also fulfilling this development role with Aprilia in MotoGP."
On the brothers in arms weekend he concluded: "It's really nice to join Eugene on the biggest grid in the world. When we started off racing we never dreamed of being professional riders, never mind competing together in MotoGP.
"The paddock already has the Espargaro brothers, but who would ever have thought two brothers from Northern Ireland would be on the grid together. It's pretty cool."
For Eugene, round nine signifies an opportunity to top the Open Class before the MotoGP series heads into its summer break.
Last time out at Assen he was very much in the hunt before his first crash of the season.
This time around he's looking for a strong finish, as he explained: "Sachsenring is the final round before the summer break and so a good result is important before some time off. There's nothing worse than suffering a bad race and having to wait a month to put things right.
"It's another circuit that I've ridden long ago in 250GP but never on a 1000cc bike, so I'll treat it as if it's a new circuit. I crashed last time out in Assen whilst battling for Open Class honours.
"I feel that my goal of an Open class race win is now within reach and there'd be no better way to go into the summer break."