Eugene Laverty topped the timesheets at the opening World Superbike test at Philip Island in Australia, vindicating Voltcom Crescent Suzuki team boss Paul Denning’s decision to secure the Monaco-based Ulsterman in his line up this term.
It’s certainly early days in terms of making any predictions for the season ahead, but the runner up from last season’s WSB Championship, was confident enough in his approach to declare the UK based team’s GSX-R1000 Superbike the best he’d ever ridden around the sinuous coastal circuit in the southern hemisphere.
“We surprised even ourselves with the lap times. We were a lot faster than where I’d set my goal and the fact that the bike works so well around here is nice too,” Eugene reported.
Enjoying the Aussie sunshine and perfect conditions, he added: “Usually you have a strong head wind or strong tail wind to contend with, or it’s too hot and slippery. It was optimum temperature with very little wind, so that’s why the lap times were so quick.
“In terms of feedback the Voltcom Crescent Suzuki GSX-R is better than any Superbike I’ve ridden here. I can really attack the course more than I’ve ever done, and that gives me a lot of confidence. The rear tyres are working well too; even after 24 laps we are still under my lap record so that’s definitely positive.”
Laverty saw his team-mate at Voltcom Suzuki and reigning British Superbike champion Alex Lowes posted the fifth fastest time on his Phillip Island debut.
Reigning WSB champion Tom Sykes (1min:30.737s) posted the third fastest time behind Laverty (1:30.513s) on the Suzuki and Davide Giugliano on the factory Ducati (1:30.718s). Ballyclare’s Jonathan Rea (1:31.404s) was eighth after day one but almost a full second down on Laverty’s blistering lap.
Dublin’s Jack Kennedy, making his debut appearance for new team CIA Insurance Honda, was fourth in the World Supersport timings but later crashed and was transferred to a Melbourne hospital with a suspected broken ankle.
lThe Vauxhall International North West 200 has received another major boost with the announcement that Ryan Farquhar’s KMR Kawasaki squad will be on the starting grid at the May showpiece.
Farquhar will lead a full complement of KMR Kawasaki riders in the Supertwin races at the opening international of the 2014 season. The four-time North West winner will head up a squad that will include former NW200 Superstock winner Keith Amor; last year’s Supertwin victor, former Grand Prix ace Jeremy McWilliams, and North West rookie, Connor Behan.
And to add even more glamour to the event, Event Director Mervyn Whyte will continue discussions with the Dungannon man this week, in an attempt to add former Grand Prix Moto 3 star Danny Webb to the impressive KMR line-up.
Taking time out from his busy schedule building bikes, and his new found passion of Clay Pigeon shooting, Farquhar was all smiles when discussing the ever-increasing workload, with the North West now just 12 weeks’ away.
“I am flat out building bikes. Every year I say I am going to take it easier, but then I can’t help myself and I am back at work!”
Farquhar has coaxed his former arch rival, Amor, out of retirement to join Grand Prix legend McWilliams and himself in a vastly experienced line-up, that he hopes will emulate the KMR team’s 2012 feat of taking all three places on the Supertwin race podium.
With Cypriot-based Scottish rider Amor having his first North West ride on an ER6, Farquhar feels that McWilliams, winner of the race last year, will be the KMR man most likely to succeed.
“Jeremy will be our strongest rider and I wouldn’t like to bet my house against him,” Farquhar declared. He won last year and he definitely didn’t have the fastest bike in the field, so he proved he can race the North West.”
Race chief Mervyn Whyte added: “To have the KMR Kawasaki squad, complete with Ryan and Keith back out of retirement, at the North West will be great for the race and for all of their fans.
“Ryan has pioneered the Supertwin class and there’s no doubt his immaculately prepared machinery will be at the front of the pack in the races on Thursday evening and Saturday Race Day.”