Paul Lindsay: Eugene Laverty wants to rule World
Eugene Laverty will make his return to the World Superbike Championship with Milwaukee Aprilia in just over a week's time in the opening round of the 2017 season at Phillip Island in Australia on February 25-26.
And despite having only taken in a handful of pre-season tests aboard his RSV4 Aprilia, the Ulsterman, who resides in Monaco, is confident that he can start the campaign by giving his UK-based team a maiden victory at the southern hemisphere circuit - and he is also targeting the World crown.
Speaking from his home prior to travelling Down Under, Laverty said: "There hasn't been much to talk about these past few seasons, so I will be looking to add to my win tally in World Superbike this season and there's no reason why we can't start with a win."
Laverty certainly has the talent to do just that, having stood on the top step on his last two visits to the Australian circuit in 2013 and 2014.
"Yeah, Phillip Island has been good for me in the past," he reflected.
"It suited the Aprilia and even with the Suzuki it worked well, but it's one of those tracks where we've done so many miles testing around it that you get to know what the track needs from any bike. I'm really looking forward to getting back there, and the test beforehand (February 21-22) will allow me to get back into the swing of things."
Laverty's two-year tenure in MotoGP did produce some amazing results for the Ulsterman, especially in the second year aboard his privateer Ducati. But unfortunately, as is so often the case in racing, politics didn't afford the Toome lad a factory ride so an early return to World Superbike was inevitable. Now, he has only one thing on his mind - winning World titles.
Recounting his time with the Aspar team in MotoGP, he said: "It was an enjoyable experience granted, but it's just not the same riding for an 11th-placed finish as fighting for a win and that's the reality of it. I've got a winner's mentality and I've missed being able to apply that this last couple of years."
Speaking of his current deal and his aspirations for the future, he explained: "This is a long-term plan for me and while I'm always open to options, I went to MotoGP to see how I would fare and try and get onto a factory bike, but that didn't materialise.
"So the plan was always to come back to World Superbike on a factory bike after two years. I pushed for a two-year contract as I see some mileage in this with Aprilia and it's certainly not a stepping stone to get back into MotoGP. I want to stay here and win some World titles (a warning to his main rivals, who include double World champion and fellow Ulsterman Jonathan Rea)."
In conclusion, the 30-year-old was keen to heap praise on his new team. He added: "The team works well with their British structure, yes.
"Aprilia, with their knowledge of the factory bike, is needed but they are already impressed with the SMR outfit, and the boys are teaching each other some interesting new phrases in both Italian and English!"