During the World Superbike races at Assen, we sat down with World Superbike rider Eugene Laverty. It became a great interview about the start of the WSBK paddock and the future.
Eugene Laverty is a highly talented Northern Irish motorcycle racer. Coming out of a family with 2 other racing brothers, it seemed destiny to have something to do with racing. After several season racing in the UK, he made his debut on the world stage in the 250cc World Championship.
It didn’t bring the results Eugene Laverty was hoping for and when the change came to try a World Supersport machine his career went into a completely different direction. He fought for the title in the years that followed and made the step to the World Superbike, where he is still racing fast with Aprilia.
The start of this season wasn’t ideal, with big crashes during the test on Philip Island. On Aragon, Eugene Laverty still wasn’t fully fit, but finishing within the top 5. The championship is long, and we can’t count the Northern Irishman out for a bid on the title.
In a weird way, you became a World Supersport rider. You were riding the 250cc, but got called in to replace Fabien Foret on the Yamaha. How did you experience that first weekend on a different bike in a different paddock?
It was a strange week. The week before, in Indianapolis, I broke my left foot and my big toe on my right foot, so it was difficult. I couldn’t really walk, but I knew I had to ride, as the bike was capable of a good result. The track was new to me, but the bike felt very smooth and easy to ride. I was able to push on the bike and get a podium result. It couldn’t have got any better, as I was injured, first time on a new track and bike and to end up with a podium was a big reward. That was a great beginning of my career in the World Supersport.
This was followed with 2 years in the World Supersport with the Parkalgar Honda Team. How do you look back on that time?
Well, 2010 was the best year in my career, for sure. 2009 was a bit of a surprise as I didn’t expect to fight for the championship. I had some ups and downs, but in 2010 I was super strong. I think I won 8 races. We learned a lot in 2009 and were able to get the benefits from that in 2010. We didn’t get the title, but I’m looking back very fondly.
2 Years ago you made the step from Supersport to Superbike with Yamaha. How was that first season for you?
I got used to the bike straight away, but you always run in to some issues. In the test before the season I learned a lot, but when you have a new bike you will always run in problems. We saw that on Donington Park that the cold temperature was holding us back in the fast corners. In Aragon, we had issues with wheelies, which hold us back. As the bike was new, I had to understand how to adjust the bike. So yeah we had some ups and down’s, but that was to be expected from the learning year. The last four races I was super strong and that was really important. To win one race in Imola was great, but to get the double was unexpected. A though start to the year that ended really good.
At the end of the 2011 season, Yamaha decided to stop their activities in World Superbike. Did you expect the news, or did it come to as a surprise?
Yeah, we planned to sign a second year with Yamaha. Even Marco Melandri had signed to stay. Suddenly they just withdrew, which was a big shock. I knew that with Yamaha we would be able to fight for the championship, and then I had to look for a new job. I’m super happy that Aprilia picked me up. Since the beginning of this season, we had a fantastic bike.
How does the Aprilia fit you, and what makes it different compared to the Yamaha?
The Aprilia fits my style a lot. Even when I was riding the bike for the first 3 laps, I felt very comfortable and the first thing I did was just moving my body around the bike to understand how much freedom I have. The Yamaha was so big to me, while on the Aprilia I feel like a little boy. I could really throw the bike around and be aggressive. It’s strong in every department, and that is what I need to get the job done.
The biggest difference between the two brands for me is the rear traction. Even when you lose the rear grip, it gets back to you so quick. The Aprilia is stable, and we still are working hard to improve. When it all comes together, we are ready to fight for the podium.
During the test on Phillip Island, you crashed hard and broke your hand. How is the hand doing right now?
Not a 100%. It wasn’t only my hand, it was my whole body, including my head and neck. I crashed two times in one week and destroyed two helmets. They were two very big crashed, my hand was broken, but I didn’t feel fit it all.
The first race in Philip Island, I got real close to finish the race, but then a gear box issue ended our race. It was heartbreaking as we worked so hard to get there. At least in the second race I got some point, but at the end of that race I was completely finished because of the injuries. I was so done.
Even in Imola, I wasn’t a 100% at all. I had still a lot of physiotherapies after that weekend.
Talking about Imola, you were falling back in the early stages of the race, but managed to fight back. Are you satisfied with the results, or was there more?
Unfortunately, there wasn’t anything left for me. We had to find more power, so I wasn’t happy being seconds behind the leaders to finish 5th. The place wasn’t too big, but just the gap was very big.
What are your goals for the rest of the 2012 season?
I’m still fighting for the title. From the start of the season, that was my goal. It started a bit difficult due to the injuries and the pain. That said, the bike is strong with this complete package and the team has a lot of experience, so it’s time to climb that podium together.
What’s your dream, World Superbike champion or MotoGP rider?
Firstly to be the World Superbike champion, then to the MotoGP. That’s my dream, in 2010 I came close, and I felt I really deserved it that year. I still want that title and then making the move to the MotoGP.