Eugene Laverty was on course for his season-best finish of second in the first WorldSBK race at Misano until he ran wide on lap 16 of 21. Not his fault it appears, as he said a rear wheel sensor went wrong, again.
After Laverty had negated the early Rea-stalking pace of Tom Sykes on lap five, he was so confident while sitting in second that he tried to put a bite into the lead of Jonathan Rea, the eventual clear winner.
“A few laps before I ran wide, in the middle of the race, the bike was feeling good and I thought let’s try and chase Johnny down, why not?” said Laverty. “Then the bike started jumping and bunny-hopping in a straight line.
“I had a fair idea of what happened because it happened in the last lap of FP4 this morning where a sensor came off. It happened there again so I thought it was going to be a tough last part of the race. Then it started messing around with gearshifts and power and all sorts. That cost me second position. But I would be more pissed if I had lost out on the podium. At least I kept the podium. I think it was the rear wheel sensor, not sure exactly and I will have to ask the guys but it happened in the end of FP4.”
With Laverty also on the podium in Laguna, having peppered the off-podium positions for the past few rounds, he feels he can continue in the same vein, and put the gripper tarmac at Misano down as why he was even more competitive in Italy than America.
“The asphalt is what changed here,” said Laverty. “After Laguna, say in a third of the race, we lost that little rear grip we needed to stop the bike and do everything. Here it happened after two thirds of the race.
“We need more grip from the track but I have an idea what I need for the bike just to make it maintain the grip for the whole race. It is purely because at Laguna Seca the asphalt is like an ice rink whereas here the grip level is quite high. That meant I could maintain the pace for longer.”
After several changes to the technical regulations in WorldSBK in recent years, to make engines much more stock, Laverty understands that there is one problem that cannot be overcome for his V4.
“The bike we have now worked around the limitations,” he said. “We know that the one thing we cannot change is the bike cannot stop that easily. But with the higher grip levels here, the bike does stop. We know that is our limitation and that we are not going to shut down the bike in corner entry like a Ducati or Kawasaki, so we have to work around that.
“It is not like I destroy the rear tyre. It looks fine. I think that is where people get confused. It is that the bike cannot use it. We made changes to the rear of the bike that allows the bike to push on the rear tyre. That is why Lorenzo when he first used the big tyre at Imola and Donington, he was so fast, he really liked the tyre.
“I didn’t because I am a small guy so we had to change the bike to push the tyre into the ground better. The engine is good, it has a lot of power, but it is an engine problem why the bike does not stop. We know the rule changes that happened in recent years and that makes the bike difficult to decelerate.
Aprilia, with a full-on MotoGP effort to run, has been dipping in and out of the WorldSBK team since they came back to some degree in 2017 to help the SMR team run its former all-conquering vee-fours. But not now, it appears.
“The first half of last year they helped us a lot, let us say until Laguna Seca last year it was a lot of factory support,” said Laverty. “I think in that midseason whenever I went second on Friday and then fourth position on Friday afternoon at Laguna I said, ‘yes, we have a bike that can out us on the podium here.” Unfortunately it has taken us one year to get that so the bike has not changed that much since then. We have not had much updates from Aprilia. So this year it has been a lot of SMR. An SMR effort.”
After the pain and lost opportunities of a broken pelvis suffered early this season in Thailand, Laverty sees his current podium form as a vindication that he still has the form that made him a championship challenger before his move to MotoGP, and then a tough time since he came back to WorldSBK.
“I am not one of these bitter riders that likes to, when I get a result, then point out everybody who said I couldn’t,” he grinned. “I prefer to point out the people who still believed in me. There were a lot of people who did.
“For me it was more about satisfying myself. I needed to get back there to prove to myself again what I know I am capable of. It just took a year longer than I expected. Of course the injury in Thailand did not help. I think we were on a good way at the start of the year. But it is so nice to be back here on the podium and such a relief to enjoy my racing again. I am a winner and I want to be on the podium.”