Eugene Laverty chats about his debut season in MotoGP™, his recovery from injury and his aims for 2016.
Aspar MotoGP Team’s Eugene Laverty finished in 22nd in the 2015 MotoGP™ championship standings with 9 points. In 2016 the team have switched to Ducati machinery and Eugene will be riding a GP14.2:
Eugene, first up, how is your left wrist after you broke it at the private test in Jerez at the end of last year and, of course, your right wrist injury from Sepang?
“That was the nice thing about the first few laps in Sepang, we tested out the left wrist and it felt okay. I did some supermoto in January and there was still a bit of pain there, but once I got on the Ducati there was no problem at all. There is still a little bit to come from the right shoulder. It is improving bit by bit, but should be fine for Phillip Island. Obviously it didn’t help that I injured my right wrist in Sepang. It was a bit confusing with the right wrist injury, as it was a similar injury to one I received 10 years ago. It seems that perhaps the old injury actually saved me, because all of the damage looked the same and the bruising was huge but I hadn’t broken it…well we think so. The Clinica Mobile were convinced it was fractured due to the bruising, as there was a lot, but it is moving again and it is what it is. The main thing is to get back on the bike again.”
How would you summarise your first full season in MotoGP™ last year?
“In some aspects it was positive, but what we had aimed for when I first signed the contract was far from what we achieved. The team did a great job but we were on under-par machinery I guess. It was tough; MotoGP has never been as tough. Sometimes we were within 1-1.5s and myself and Nicky were riding the wheels off the bike, so to only get four point-scoring finishes was disappointing and was definitely not our target at the start of the year. I ended up with nine points and I would like to have got that in one race rather than across the whole season! In that respect I am positive that on the Ducati we can step up to where we should be.”
So would you say your team’s switch to Ducati machinery was a positive one for you?
“It definitely was! I worked with Luigi (Dall’Igna) in WorldSBK’s and he has carried across the same mentality and approach to Ducati in MotoGP. He is very involved, loves racing in his heart and he wants the best for me. He listens to what I have to say about the bike too, which is positive because we are not a factory team, yet he personally comes by to see how things are going.”
How important is that kind of support from a manufacturer?
“That is why they are ahead with the electronics. They got the jump on their rivals with the electronics because they were on the case last year. Where as with Honda, because we were down the pecking order our comments weren’t going to be listened to, which is a shame as my teammate Nicky (Hayden) was obviously a former MotoGP World Champion. When I worked with Luigi in WorldSBK he was key to developing a bike that could win races every weekend. I think we know what we are capable of and given the right machinery we can be aiming for points scoring finishes regularly.”
Having come from the Open class last year, how excited are you about the technical changes for 2016?
“I am excited, and that’s the reason I came to MotoGP. I signed a two-year contract with this change in mind. I knew I had a lot to learn in the first year. Despite the bike last year not being what we had hoped for, it was still enough for me to learn. Obviously I was never going to be able to fight at the front in my first year in MotoGP, it takes time to learn a different category. Now, with a year under my belt the roles have been switched, as now everyone has to learn the new tyres and electronics. I think it was a good time to move and definitely this year will be a much more even playing field.”
With so much to adapt to in 2016, the new bike, tyres and electronics, the Sepang test must have been frustrating for you…
“It was frustrating as I didn’t really get to test at all. At the Valencia test I had an initial run on the bike with last years Open electronics. My first real go on the 2016 software with the Michelin tyres was at the private test in Jerez. We were just starting to work our way few some small gremlins with the new ECU when I had my crash and got injured. Then again in Sepang we had the same thing. We did a few laps to work out some electronic issues, then there was the mechanical problem that caused the crash and I didn’t really get to ride. On the final day I just tried to get out there to “get back on the horse,” but the pain was too much and I wasn’t able to ride, which was frustrating. I think you can say I am looking forward to Phillip Island!”
Despite your woes in Sepang, how encouraging was it for you to see Hector Barbera (Avintia Racing) on the same bike as you (GP14.2) in third on the combined timesheets?
“That was the biggest positive point for me and it was why I was able to smile on the second day despite not being able to ride. That is because I knew that no matter what happened last year, unless it snowed or something crazy happened with the weather, we weren’t going to be able to be up there. So to see Hector put in that time on the same level of equipment that we have, it gives us reason for optimism and means that we can get stuck in. Okay we are not on the factory Ducati, but it isn’t a big gap. The bike is still a great bike and it is not that far behind, as you can see by what the Pramac team achieved last year on the GP14.2.”
Bearing in mind what happened in Sepang, what are your aims for the Phillip Island test?
“I need to get comfortable on the bike, get some laps in and put in some decent runs. In the last two tests I was trying to fix some little teething problems before my crashes happened, so I was in and out of the pits trying to get them sorted. Now I am just looking forward to being able to ride the bike and stay out on track for 6-8 laps and feel comfortable on it as it still hasn’t felt like my bike. In Valencia it started to feel like my bike, but since we switched to the 2016 electronics, I haven’t been able to make much progress, so I am just keen to get out there, put a handful of laps together and try and feel at home.”
What are you aims for the season?
“It is so difficult to know, because the Pramac guys did such a great job on the bike last year. I definitely want to reduce the gap to the guys at the front. Last year we were often 1.5-2s off pole position, and we have to reduce that substantially. It may sound crazy, but as I mentioned earlier, last year I scored nine points over the course of the season, I would like to achieve that in one race this season. That’s a seventh position finish in a race, so to be in and around there is the aim.”