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World Superbikes: Ulster duo end season with places on podium

World superbike riders Jonathan Rea and Eugene Laverty ended the 2012 season in tremendous form at Portimao in Portugal yesterday with Rea on the podium twice with two fine third place finishes while Laverty secured the runner-up spot in the final race of the season in what was his last appearance for the factory Yamaha team as they depart the Superbike scene.

Indeed, the Toomebridge rider is heading to pastures new with all conjecture leading to Laverty having agreed a two-year deal to ride for the Italian manufacturer Aprilia.

Laverty’s second position was not enough to secure third place in the final championship standings as he lost out to Max Biaggi on a tie break, both finishing level on points, the Italian claiming third with the most second place results throughout the season, both having won two races.

Laverty was unlucky as he was with the leading group of riders in race one only to lose control when his rear wheel came off the ground and when it returned to the track it threw the Yamaha sideways with the 25-year-old lucky to stay on board as he threaded a path through the riders around him breaking the steering damper in the process and forcing him into the pits and out of contention.

In race two, Laverty led for the majority of the race before his team mate Marco Melandri sneaked through to take the win with Laverty and Rea involved in a great scrap for second; Laverty rebuffing every challenge from the 24-year-old to make it a final race 1-2 for the Yamaha team.

Laverty, who starts testing on new machinery at Portimao on Tuesday said: “That moment in race one took the wind out of my sails, but we fought back in race two and it was a good way to finish off the season with a 1-2 for Yamaha, who are now leaving world superbike.

“I think we had a good rookie Superbike season with Yamaha and I was unlucky to lose out on third in the championship as it only took a slight braking error after leading for such a long time to allow Marco through for the race win dropping me to third in the series.

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“For 2012 I look to be on the best bike possible and despite all the speculation I will not put pen to paper on any new deal until next week.”

Rea, meanwhile, starting from pole position led away race one from pole position, but was soon relegated to second spot by Sylvain Guintoli, who commanded the race lead until two laps from the end when newly crowned world champion Carlos Checa swooped past the Frenchman to claim his 15th victory of the season with Rea finishing in third spot.

In race two Rea always played second fiddle to Laverty and Melandri and it was only in the closing stages that the Castrol Honda rider challenged Laverty for second, trying every manoeuvre possible to get past his local rival, but having to settle for third.

Rea, who stays with Castrol Honda for 2012, said afterwards, “I’m happy; two trophies and challenging for race wins again. We can go into the winter on the back of two podiums and in a good frame of mind.”

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