Belfast Telegraph

Eugene Laverty bounces back with third in Malaysia

By Roy Harris

The first ever races at Sepang in Malaysia for World Superbikes saw mixed fortunes for Eugene Laverty and Jonathan Rea, the Toomebridge rider claiming a podium, his first since the opening round of the season, in a dramatic opening race before dropping to seventh in race two while Rea gained more valuable championship points from two sixth place finishes.

The drama started on the first lap of race one when an over eager Loris Baz went down taking out his team-mate and defending world champion Tom Sykes and Voltcom Suzuki’s Alex Lowes with Rea on the Pata Honda having to take evasive action re-joining in 20th position.

This allowed the Aprilia pair of Sylvain Guintoli and Marco Melandri to escape at the front of the race, as Toni Elias, Chaz Davies and Laverty engaged in battle for third with Rea re-grouped and went on a charge through the field.

Melandri slammed inside Guintoli at the final corner on the tenth lap going on to take his first victory of the season.

Meanwhile Laverty had got to the front of the battle for the final podium step on lap 12 holding off Davies by two and-a-half seconds at the chequered flag saying, “That certainly makes up for the last few rounds of disappointments.”

Rea battled his way through to sixth at the chequered flag.

Race two was red flagged on lap four when Claudia Corti’s MV Agusta engine expired in flames that were quickly extinguished by track personnel.

The restart over ten laps saw an early six rider dice between the two Aprilias of Guintoli and Melandri, the Kawasakis of Sykes and Baz with Elias and Rea bringing up the rear while Laverty, following a poor start was stuck in tenth.

On the final lap Guintoli and Melandri passed and repassed and it was only in the last corner that Melandri finally got his nose in front to complete a superb double on the day.

Sykes made up for his first race disappointment taking the final podium place two and-a-half seconds behind the flying Aprilias.

Rea again finished in sixth with Laverty making a late charge to finish seventh.

Rea said, “It’s been a tough weekend and it’s not where we wanted to be, but we kind of made some steps forward when it mattered, especially in race two when I was able to carry much better pace.

“It seems our engine braking system is too sensitive to different conditions and different circuits, which is frustrating.

“I had grip at the beginning, but at the end I had a lot of chatter from the rear, as the grip deteriorated.”

Laverty’s view of the last race was: “The shorter distance didn’t suit the Suzuki, because we are better on old tyres, but it’s been a positive weekend and great to be back in the top three again.”

The championship now heads to Misano, Italy in a fortnight. Sykes leads the way on 201 points with Guintoli second on 188 and Rea a close third with 179, while Laverty languishes in eighth with 90.

Dubliner Jack Kennedy continued his frustrating season in World Supersport by crashing out of the sixth place battle and taking the rider in front down with him, both were uninjured.

Closer to home and both the Metzeler Post TT meeting at Billown in the Isle of Man and the Irish Short Circuit championship meeting at Kirkistown on Saturday were both cancelled without a wheel being turned thanks to the inclement weather.

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