Belfast Telegraph

Eugene Laverty's joy at securing Superbike glory quest

By Paul Lindsay

Eugene Laverty's return to the World Superbike Championship with Milwaukee Aprilia is now official after the Italian manufacturer announced its involvement with Shaun Muir's team yesterday.

The Monaco-based Ulsterman is delighted to be back on board factory-backed Aprilia machinery, similar to the bikes that took him to second place in the World Superbike Championship back in 2013.

But for now the 30-year-old must remain focused on his current employment with the Pull & Bear Aspar Ducati team in MotoGP, where he will ride this weekend at Aragon in Spain in round 15 of the 19-round series.

Speaking about his return to the World Superbikes aboard factory-backed RSV4 Aprilia machinery that will see Muir's Yorkshire-based team receive direct support from the Noale based Italian Manufacturer, Laverty said: "I'm excited about returning to World Superbike with Aprilia and the RSV4, a bike which I took to 10 wins and second place overall in the championship.

"I hope to be able to pick up where I left off with those results thanks to the support of Aprilia and a fantastic team like SMR. Everything is in place for us to be competitive straight away from the opening round in 2017."

For now the Milwaukee Aprilia job, and the excitement surrounding it, must be put on ice until Laverty makes his final foray in the MotoGP World Championship on November 13 at Valencia.

Before then he must take in rounds in Japan, Malaysia and Australia, and this weekend's action at Aragon in Spain.

Laverty is currently just 12 points outside the top 10 in the championship standings behind fellow Ducati pilot Hector Barbera, something he will be looking to rectify on Sunday in Spain aboard his 2014 specification privateer Ducati.

Looking ahead, Laverty said: "Last time out at Misano I realised that the problem we have is with turning the bike. It meant that I lost a lot of time in the tight sections. That is where we struggled and where we have to improve.

"We'll try to do that at Aragon. I've put in a lot of laps there during my time in World Superbikes and also won the Open class last season, so it's a good track for me.

"We are aiming for a top 10 result there, that's always the goal, and we need it in order to keep in the fight for 10th in the World Championship."

The vast Aragon facility near the small town of Alcañiz has been the scene of a turf war between Jorge Lorenzo and Marc Márquez in recent seasons, with Valentino Rossi never having won there. Third place has been the Italian's best result.

The nine-time world champion has pulled points back on the championship leader for the last four consecutive meetings, but needs to maintain the trend if he is to arrive at Valencia in November with a shot at the title.

The best way to do this would be to break the historic run of eight different winners from the last eight races, and a Rossi victory would, as ever, be very popular.

Meanwhile, former multiple Irish and Ulster champion Philip McCullough will lead the Irish Motocross of Nations team this weekend in Italy as team manager.

Graeme Irwin, Martin Barr and Stuart Edmonds are his riders of choice and will represent the Irish team in MX1, MX2 and the Open class respectively.

All three riders are going into the event with good form after they all showed good speed at the last round of the British Championship at Foxhill.

This will be Barr's 12th time representing his country at the Nations and he said: "I'm really looking forward to it. I think this is the strongest all three of us have ever been and with Philip being the manager, things are looking very good."

Belfast Telegraph

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