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Laverty is relishing launch of his British crown bid

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New look: Tommy Bridewell, Tyco MD Phil Dashey, Michael Laverty, Tyco BMW team boss Philip Neill and Alastair Seeley

New look: Tommy Bridewell, Tyco MD Phil Dashey, Michael Laverty, Tyco BMW team boss Philip Neill and Alastair Seeley

New look: Tommy Bridewell, Tyco MD Phil Dashey, Michael Laverty, Tyco BMW team boss Philip Neill and Alastair Seeley

London's Excel Arena came to a virtual standstill yesterday during the hugely anticipated launch of local team TAS Racing's new venture as BMW Motorrad's official representatives in British Superbike and on the international roads this term.

As we have come to expect, the Moneymore-based team unveiled an exceptionally fast-looking bike in terms of race livery at the London Motorcycle Show, but that left us with a burning question - can they turn the Tyco BMW into a championship-winning machine in British Superbike?

One man who certainly thinks so is Presteigne-based Toomebridge lad Michael Laverty, having returned from spending two seasons in MotoGP to rejoin his local team.

"I can't wait to get out on the bike now after seeing it unveiled here at the launch," smiled the pencil thin and super-fit looking former British Supersport champion, who will also be part of Aprilia's testing programme this season in MotoGP.

On his new deal with TAS Racing, Laverty added: "I know the pedigree of both the BMW and the TAS team, having been here before, but with a new bike in the S1000RR and the all-important factory support from BMW Motorrad in Germany, I do believe this will give me my best chance of finally grabbing that number one plate."

Team Manager Philip Neill was equally as buoyant about his team's chances in 2015, having come so close in previous seasons with Australian rider Josh Brookes.

He is delighted to have - on paper - two of the leading contenders this year in Laverty and affable Devonian Tommy Bridewell.

"Last year didn't quite go to plan for us but we've been there or there abouts in British Superbike before," explained Neill, who is the driving force behind the Tyco BMW squad.

"We feel very honoured to be representing BMW Motorrad as their official team this season in the British championship, with both Michael and Tommy in the Superbike class and, of course, not forgetting Alastair Seeley in Superstock."

Asked to sum up his riders' chances, Neill was candid in his reply: "Both riders are proven championship candidates.

"Michael has won BSB races before on numerous bikes, and indeed was our first race winner in the class.

"Tommy completed a fantastic season last year and managed to finish in third place overall in the championship, splitting the big three.

"Considering the credentials of both riders and the quality of the BMW package, we have to target race wins in 2015 and in that situation should come a strong championship challenge from both riders."

Talking of the strength in depth of the British series, Neill added: "It certainly will not be easy and we will be taking nothing for granted."

In Seeley, Neill has a dogged and determined competitor, who has already won two British championships and 11 International North West 200 races. So, as he explained, he has no worries regarding the 'Wee Wizard'.

"I just love watching Alastair race," enthused Neill.

"He's just such a determined character and this desire to work with Alastair again is shared by Tyco, our title sponsors.

"That in itself made it a very easy decision. With BMW having a strong interest in the Superstock Championship and the S1000RR potentially being the weapon of choice, we are looking forward to the upcoming season with optimism, including the North West 200."

Neill has yet to announce his plans for the Supersport class with Seeley at the North West 200, but on BMW machinery, the Wee Wizard is already installing himself as favourite in the 1000cc classes.

Belfast Telegraph