Belfast Telegraph

Switch for Eugene Laverty can set up Superbike world title bid

By Paul Lindsay

The closest Ulsterman Eugene Laverty will get to a home MotoGP round this season will be the British Grand Prix at Silverstone this weekend which could well be his one and only appearance in the premier class before a likely return to World Superbike in 2016.

Laverty comes into the 12th round at Silverstone off the back of a crash in the Czech Republic, and while the mild-mannered Toomebridge man is watching his Ps and Qs, I am reliably informed he's frustrated at the lack of forward momentum within the Aspar squad.

Following on from his crash at Brno, Laverty said: "When I crashed Jack (Miller) ran into me, so I was lucky to come out uninjured, which is at least something positive.

"The team has done a great job developing the bike over the past two races and I'd like to be talking about good results at the end of the race rather than sounding like I'm making excuses," was how Laverty put the tin hat on yet another frustrating weekend.

Granted, Laverty may not have set the world on fire in this his debut season with the Aspar team in MotoGP, but in his defence nor has his more experienced team-mate Nicky Hayden, who was MotoGP world champion back in 2006.

Consecutive points-scoring finishes came in France, Italy and Spain at the lower end of the top 15, but as Laverty would openly admit, it's a long season when you are relying on some of the leading contenders to post non-finishes just to grab a single point or two in between long-haul flights.

Hayden has not fared much better and with the likes of Aussie Miller and Spanish Moto2 World champion Tito Rabat touted to be standing in line for 2016, Laverty would be best advised to get himself back on a competitive seat in World Superbike next term.

At the end of 2013, having finished runner-up in the World Superbike Championship with Aprilia, the Monaco-based rider took on the unlikely task of trying to put Suzuki's ageing GSX-R1000 back on the map in the same series.

His motivation? A promise of a MotoGP opportunity in 2015 on the all-new Suzuki GSX-RR. As history shows, that deal didn't materialize and Laverty is currently treading water in motorcycling's premier class, with his best chance of staying there down to the strength of his Irish passport - and how much commercial rights holders Dorna value having an Irishman in their list of international riders.

With Paul Denning's Crescent team set to be announced as Yamaha's new WSB pioneers with the all-new YZF-R1M in 2016, would Laverty consider going back to two old stomping grounds next spring?

In his debut season in World Superbike back in 2011, he scored a memorable double for Yamaha at Monza, and after a two-year spell with Aprilia he went where no man dared go for four seasons on a Suzuki - the top step of a podium.

Josh Brookes has shown what the new Yamaha is capable of, more recently in British Superbike, albeit running under a different set of rules than WSB, but with former 250cc World champion Marco Melandri and current Crescent favourite Alex Lowes touted as the riders, what other doors can Laverty rap?

The Kawasaki line-up of champion in waiting, Ulsterman Jonathan Rea, and Tom Sykes will not change, and with Chaz Davies (Ducati) and Leon Haslam (Aprilia) making it four Brits in the top four, could their respective team-mates be pushed aside to allow Laverty an opportunity to disturb the British dominance, possibly back at Aprilia or even on a Ducati?

One place I cannot see him going is Honda. You only have to look at the dilemma current world champion Sylvain Guintoli is in on the virtually prehistoric CBR1000.

But then again German giants BMW could also do with something a little more adventurous than the predictably poor efforts of Ayrton Badovini. It's going to be an intriguing couple of months.

Belfast Telegraph


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