Eugene Laverty is all fired up for his shot at the big time
Eugene Laverty will embark on the next, and probably most crucial, stage of his career to date when he makes his MotoGP debut this weekend in Qatar with the Drive M7 Aspar Honda team.
Laverty turned his back on the Grand Prix paddock in 2008, somewhat disillusioned with the potential of securing a top level opportunity, but after successful spells in both World Supersport and World Superbike, the Ulsterman is back in the premier class paddock - and looking to make his mark.
"Moving to MotoGP is a dream come true. Pre-season has gone really well, as we've made steady progress every time I've ridden the bike, and I've gelled well with 'Open' Honda and my new team," said Laverty.
The 'Open' Honda he refers to is the production based 230bhp RC213V-RS he will ride this season. The Open class is primarily for privateer teams with a smaller budget than the factory efforts.
So for Laverty and the Aspar team, this means additional engines (12 over five afforded to the factory teams), additional fuel (24 litres over 20), use of a softer Bridgestone tyre and no restriction on engine development with their customer bikes.
Essentially it's the same bike that Marc Marquez took to the title last year, minus the seamless factory gearbox and with control electronics, which should allow the Toomebridge man to be more than a number on the grid.
Back with his preferred number 50 plate on the immaculately liveried Drive M7 Aspar Honda, Laverty explained: "I'm excited about the challenge that lies ahead.
"The final test at Losail finished really well, which bodes well for the opening round at the same circuit this weekend.
"It is difficult to say what my goal in terms of overall position will be, because the field is so strong this season.
"However, within the Open category I want to be fighting for the top three positions from the beginning. I enjoy the Losail circuit and our bike suits the circuit very well, so I want to start the season with a strong result."
The main protagonists in the Open class category that Eugene will have to contend with include Forward Racing Yamaha's German star Stefan Bradl, Avintia Racing Ducati mounted Hector Barbera, fellow rookies Jack Miller (LCR Honda) and Loris Baz (Forward Racing Yamaha) - then last but certainly not least, his Aspar Honda team-mate and former MotoGP champion Nicky Hayden.
Scoring points in the top 15 overall will be a major goal for the Monaco-based Ulsterman early doors, and reducing the gap to the podium positions, round by round, will be a must.
Having virtually equalled the lap times of his American team-mate during pre-season testing is great news for the former World Superbike number two and, as he explained, starting strongly in Qatar would be a great platform to build upon.
"We've still got some work to do with the bike to be competitive, but once we do that I feel we'll be right there at the sharp end," he said.
"But it's difficult to make predictions at this stage, although looking at last year, the bike was fairly strong in Qatar, so I'm planning on starting with a bang," he explained.
"I'm certainly not going to sit back and relax."
Guy Martin will certainly put bums on seats when he makes his first appearance in the all-new Tyco BMW livery at the KDM Cookstown 100 on April 24 and 25.
Martin said: "Cookstown is always a great way to blow off the winter cobwebs and having already tested the BMW in Spain, I'm really looking forward to it now.
"I missed last year so it'll be a good way to roll out the big BMW for the first time," he added.
Both Martin and Tyco team-mate William Dunlop are expected to ride their Superstock S1000RR BMWs with the latter scheduled to make his first local appearance on the CD Racing R6 Yamaha that he hopes will give him TT victory in June.