Courtesy of MotoGP
Eugene Laverty will return to the World Championship in 2015 as he makes his MotoGP™ class debut with Drive M7 Aspar. Following his first test in Valencia, the Ulsterman took time out to chat with motogp.com.
This week, Laverty’s training has been limited to mostly indoor activities thanks to the torrential rain that has battered his adopted hometown of Monaco, having relocated to the Principality in 2012. He now steps across to the FIM MotoGP World Championship from the Eni FIM Superbike World Championship; he previously raced on the MotoGP scene during his time in the lightweight and intermediate tiers (completing a 125cc season in 2004 and two campaign of 250cc in 2007-08).
Eugene, you have gone through the Valencia test and now continue your training back home in Monaco. How are you feeling about everything?
It’s been good. Obviously there were some frustrations at the test, with the bad weather on the second day. Generally, however, I have a good feel for the bike and I’m staying upright on it, so I have a smile on my face. It’s good to have an understanding of everything. Although so far I am yet to ride the actual 2015 customer Honda but, from what I have experienced with the 2014 bike, it is enjoyable to ride and I like the riding position which felt right very early on. It was never like I had to ride in a strange position; it’s not too big, not too small and a good height.
Over recent years we have seen varying fortunes for riders such as Ben Spies and Cal Crutchlow, who have come through the route you have now followed of World Supersport, World Superbikes and then MotoGP…
That was never really in my mind, as I know both Ben and Cal are great riders. They were pretty much fast straight away in MotoGP, although Ben picked up some really unfortunate injuries. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what you are riding. There are two types of riders: good and bad. That is what it comes down to.
People used to say that the correct riding style for MotoGP was the 250cc riding style. That couldn’t be more different to what we are seeing nowadays in Moto2, but guys like Marc Marquez and Pol Espargaro have proven just how things have changed as they have brought their own styles into the premier class. There is no right and wrong way. There are different ways. We can appreciate from watching trackside who the good and bad riders are, whether it be in MotoGP or World Superbikes.
Had you received many offers to stay in World Superbikes for 2015?
Basically, once the opportunity with Drive M7 Aspar arouse with new Open Honda in MotoGP, I knew I had to go for it. I had been waiting for this. I had been considering it strongly and wanted to be competitive immediately. It is well known that for 2014 I was approach by Pramac Racing, but I decided the best thing for me was to stay in World Superbikes. Then this chance came up with Honda; I am highly motivated to see how we perform across the season.
You previously had great times with Aprilia in WSBK and came close to winning the title in 2013. Now you will be racing against them in MotoGP…
I still have a great relationship with Aprilia. The two years I had there were two of the greatest of my career. I’m quite happy they are coming into MotoGP as some of my friends from WSBK are coming across with them, so maybe we can catch up for a coffee in the paddock! World Superbikes felt like home for six years – a long time. I obviously know a lot of people there, but in MotoGP I’ve had a very warm welcome.
How are you getting on with new team-mate Nicky Hayden?
I first met Nicky when I was in 250s in 2007. I was just a lowly 250 rider but Nicky always gave me some time, would speak to me and always came across as a good guy. I’m looking forward to racing against and learning from him.
So, how are you feeling prior to the continuation of testing in February?
Well, the opening Sepang test will be my first chance to try the new 2015 bike. Later in the month, it will be very good that we can return to the same track to continue making progress and learning. Having already ridden the 2014 machine in Valencia, I already have a good feeling for the riding position and the tyres.
You are going to race with number 50. What is the story behind that?
50 was always my career number. In WSBK had to change to 58, as Sylvain Guintoli was already running 50. I started to race with 50 in 2002, when I was competing with TSR in the UK. Basically, it was because Italian rider Andrea Ballerini was also racing for TSR but in GPs, with same colour scheme and number. So I decided to run number 50 as well – I was 15 at the time and it gave me the feeling of being a GP rider! Andrea is still in the paddock now, as he is working in Moto2 with Sam Lowes. He often reminds me – and laughs – that I am using number 50 because of him!
Which of the circuits are you going to have to learn from scratch?
It’s true that the MotoGP calendar has developed quite a lot in recent years. Austin and Argentina I don’t know at all, for example. With others, I didn’t ride them in World Superbikes but I did when I was in 250s – such as Motegi and a few others. However, I’m now experienced and capable of learning a lot quicker than I used to be. At 28 I may be a bit older than other rookies for 2015, but I have more experience and I’m more adaptable. I’ve had to adapt several times and on very different bikes.
A classic question: what is the target for your first MotoGP season?
That’s tough to answer at the moment because we’re not yet sure of the 2015 Open Honda, having not even ridden it yet. I will certainly have to fight to beat some of the other rookies and my well-established team-mate in Nicky Hayden; at the same time, he is definitely somebody I need to learn from.