Despite being well down the timesheets at the Jerez WorldSBK test, BMW’s Eugene Laverty was buoyed by the work done on his S1000RR since his last Jerez test.
The Irishman assumed the role of test rider on the rain-hit first day and then continued the development work but missed his chance to stick in a good time during the height of the good weather window.
“The bike is working properly now,” Laverty told bikesportnews.com. “It was good for us that it was wet yesterday so that I could do all the in-and-out installation stuff that a test rider needs to do, because we made some huge changes on how the engine works, electronics and traction control.
“So, if it was dry yesterday I would have been impatient, thinking I was losing out on track time. As it turned out, in that weather we were able to do that work, just about, got it right by the end of the day and then transferred it across for the dry.”
Laverty was less pleased to be down in 19th place in sheer lap times, even if he was just caught out by the ever-changing weather and track conditions. “It was annoying that we missed that window to get the dry tyres because we put some new slicks in when we went to go, then it rained so I was 19th instead of eighth or ninth.”
At some times there were completely dry sections for Laverty to check out his machine at full race pace, and that was vital for him at this stage of getting the best out of an all-new package.
“There were a lot of corners that were fully dry, which was the important thing. There was just a lot of noise, a lot of chaos that was happening here the first time I rode it but now it is in my hand and I can feel where the limit is. That is key. I am optimistic, as bad as it may look where we are position wise. The work we have done from November to here is huge. Hopefully at Portimao we can show that.”
Portimao will offer two more days on track for Laverty, in what is a very different SMR-based team from he one he used to ride for recently in WorldSBK racing.
“The difference is that this is literally a truly factory-supported team,” said Laverty. “When we were there before it was private team with some trick Aprilias, whereas this time we have got a factory supported effort and the level of engineers just keeps getting better and better. We have got Sander joining us, and with him and Markus together, along with Thomas my electronics guy, what they have been doing has been key.
Unfortunately I have had to spend a lot of time in the pits. That was nearly an hour that I was in before the rain came, so we missed an hour there of good time, but they needed that information – so I could go out, ride and they could gather it. They are working on stuff that is way over my head, over my pay grade!”
Now Laverty needs two dry days at Portimao before he and all his rivals head to Australia for the opening round.
“It is really important because we did not even change anything in terms of the chassis balance just there. I had a button where I could change the mapping – try this try that – to gather the information, so I have not done a test rider role like that even when I was Aprilia’s MotoGP test rider. This is like going back to real basic stuff. But this is the crucial part we were missing in November and I think that will be the big step forward for the bike this year.”
What Laverty liked about his 2020 bike from day one was its feel and feedback, especially in how he can enter fast corners.
“That is something I really liked when I first rode the bike, the way you can brake and really launch the bike into the corner without worrying what the rear was doing. That is something that I always saw Johnny was always able to take advantage of with the Kawasaki.
“I kind of dreamed of that feeling and once I got on this bike at first I did not trust that feeling - that it would come back in line. But now, and then even on day two back in November, I was able to go into some of these faster corners like corner eight, corner eleven, brake and unload the rear and lean in knowing that the rear grip would come back. That is something that I have only been able to watch the others do on TV. Knowing that I have that, I think the bike turns well, stops well and all the rest so I think it is a good package all round.”
Electronics has helped WorldSBK riders be increasingly aggressive in downshifts, and still control the rear, but what about Laverty?
“The last few years I think we actually can backshift like that,” he confirmed. “The electronics strategies are so advanced that it can cope with that. There is a little bit to be gained there, for us as well, just being able to backshift quicker.”
So far, it is not something Laverty has had time to work on, so roll on Portimao, even also to check out his engine’s new potential. “We have to prioritise and the priority is opening the gas so we are full, that area was so far away in November and that is why we are so focused we cannot even think about anything else until we get that sorted.
“Power… we need to get next to somebody as the speed trap here is not that good a reference, it depends on how you get out of turn five and it is near the braking marker. So at Portimao I will try to get with somebody. Even in braking at Portimao the speed trap is in the braking marker, so it is more a case of trying to get along with somebody.”