Michael Laverty planning title charge
Despite looking resplendent in his all-new McAMS Yamaha racing leathers, Michael Laverty didn't turn a wheel during official BSB testing yesterday at Donington Park due to inclement weather.
But the affable Ulsterman - who resides in Wales these days with his wife Jodi - is quietly confident of making a big push for the 2017 British Superbike title, and the season fires into action in just over a week's time at the same Leicestershire venue.
"I obviously would have liked to have grabbed a few laps at Donington Park during the test, but there's still plenty of time," smiled Laverty, who has spent the past couple of months training and preparing with his factory Ducati World Superbike star brother-in-law Chaz Davies at their shared base in Girona, Spain.
Having moved from local team Tyco BMW, where he spent the past two seasons, to join the McAMS Yamaha squad - owned by Prodigy front man Keith Flint and supported by the ubiquitous energy drink giants Monster this term - Laverty is already portraying a more confident demeanour than I've witnessed since his return to BSB from the MotoGP paddock.
Having openly admitted to struggling with a number of frustrating little issues aboard the BMW - despite showing glimpses of brilliance last season - the 36-year-old, who is the eldest sibling from the famous Laverty racing family in Toome, believes the new R1 Yamaha could be just the title tonic that he needs this campaign.
Speaking from Luton airport, where he was returning to Girona for the last time before the season curtain raiser, Laverty said: "Yeah, it would have been nice to have grabbed some dry track time in the test at Donington as I've only ridden the Yamaha at one Spanish circuit - Cartagena - but my first impressions of the Yamaha are good and I'm not too stressed."
Looking ahead and using his experience not to add unnecessary pressure, he added: "I'm flying a bit under the radar this year.
"I believe I've got a good all round package, but there's more to be had from both the bike and from me, so it's a building process, although I'm confident we can do a good job at Donington next week."
Carrickfergus' Glenn Irwin, meanwhile, completed just 10 laps yesterday aboard his BeWiser Ducati on a day when Tyco BMW's Christian Iddon set the fastest time overall, but that will ultimately count for nothing when the real action gets under way next weekend.
One man who looked menacing was Aussie Josh Brookes, the 2015 BSB champion who is also Yamaha-mounted this season with the Anvil Tag squad. Brookes will also make a return to the Isle of Man TT this year with the Norton team, where he will carry the No.16 plate in both the TT Superbike and Senior TT races.
His Norton team-mate David Johnson will start No.1 in the two big races ahead of Bruce Anstey (2), James Hillier (3) and Ian Hutchinson (4), with John McGuinness moving to No.5 ahead of Michael Dunlop at No.6. Conor Cummins moves to No.7 with Guy Martin taking up his preferred No.8 berth on his return to the TT.