Laverty gearing for retirement and fixing the WorldSBK BMW’s issues

| | WorldSBK
Picture: GeeBee Images

Eugene Laverty has had some remarkable results in his WorldSBK career, but this season he has decided to stop racing, and will go into team management in 2023 - plus several other roles.

He made it to be the top Independent Rider in race two at San Juan, where he spoke about the ‘road home,’ and what is like to still be racing hard, but understanding this is his last season.

“Each run, it seems like a countdown timer because I want to have some strong results and I haven’t got an amount of time to improve,” said Eugene on Sunday in Argentina. “So this was a nice surprise to get that first independent spot, but it is tough. It’s no secret, riding this bike, it’s the hardest bike I’ve ever ridden in my entire life. I’m having to ride my ass off just to hang in there. I just try and ride 21 laps as good as I can and right now it’s not good enough for much more than a few points.”

He was also not far from Scott Redding’s official BMW Motorrad bike in his final Sunday race. “That’s what was nice,” said Eugene. “It was comparable with him for the first eight laps or so, then after that I’m not able to hang in there. So, I definitely didn’t ease off. I rode my ass off because I saw the commotion in front with Bassani, long lap penalty.

“So I just thought… just in case. I didn’t know if it was first Independent after that or not, but didn’t even bother looking at my position. When you’re down in 11th you don’t really give a shit what position you are in. I just look at the gaps and the lap time and try to maintain my pace.

“The fight that I’m in is just reducing the gap to the first position. So, I ride as hard as I can for 21 laps and unfortunately the second half of the race Mikey and Scott can hang in there. Once that initial grip goes from the tyre, I’m not able to get the rear to dig in and that’s why I drop backwards.”

The BMW has always had the reputation of having a peakier delivery than many other WorldSBK machines, needing more control and management than some others. Laverty gave his view on this idea by saying, “The problem is magnified because the more power we’ve got, that has been the issue. The more horsepower you get, the more difficult it is to control it.

“Somebody of my build, I would be better on a lesser engine, let’s say. But if you want to be able to fight and overtake people on the straight, you need to go this way. So, I can understand why we need the horsepower, but we can’t control it right now. There’s some fundamentals in the engine that we need to work on to improve. That’s what still motivates me in this project because the fundamentals aren’t right, and until you get those basics right, you’re not going to be on the podium week in and week out.”

Laverty was asked if it was fixable with the package he has, to which he replied. “It’s a question mark, isn’t it? That’s what I would like to see. I would like to test this bike a little to see some ideas that haven’t really been addressed in the last few years. That’s been three years I’ve been with this project, on and off with COVID, and then the team stopping last year, I didn’t really get full seasons.

“There’s a lot of things that remain untouched that I think is the root of the problem. We said that about the engine. There’s a lot of things we can do to try and calm this thing down because she can boogie. We can see it can go in a straight line, but somewhere like Portimao, from the braking point in turn onr until fourth gear flat out in the exit of the last corner, you don’t need power. That’s the majority of the track. You only need it on the start/finish straight. So, that’s the key. You’ve got to have the power when you need it in a straight line and try to control it everywhere else, and that’s not so easy.”

The question for Laverty now is will he get enough test days next year to be able to make meaningful development? “That really hasn’t been discussed yet,” he said. “It’s something I would like to do because it feels like unfinished business. I do feel we kind of went round in circles with this bike. I would like to test it to make progress because it has frustrated the hell out of me. There have been so many things that have really blindsided us on this project.

The three rounds I came in on Sykes’ bike last year for example I struggled like hell. Now we look back at that data and we realise the clutch was open in three rounds. Until you get those fundamentals right, then you can’t actually ride the bike. So, that was forcing us down a road of development because I couldn’t stop the bike, couldn’t get the bike to transfer, but the clutch was remaining open. These are basic things that we need to get sorted. That’s why the development went the wrong direction, because if you have things like that that are underlying, then it fucks the job.”

Seeing and hearing the opinions of the riders, and not ignoring them as some teams have done, is one of the things Laverty is aiming for in 2023, with fresh riding experiences in his mind. “I’d like to think so,” said Laverty. “I think it’s good what Leon Camier has done (at HRC Honda). Also Chaz Davies ’s role (as overall rider coach at Aruba Ducati). I think riders know. Sometimes the rider is the easiest one to blame, isn’t he? That’s why I really enjoy being part of this team because they don’t do that.

“Definitely my crew chief in my side of the garage I can definitely speak for. They never just point at me. I do often feel like I have to just reassure them and say, ‘I’m still riding as fast as I can until the last lap.’ I may only be good enough for 16th, like in Portimao, but I assured them that was probably the best race I’ve ever ridden in Portimao, in Race Two. I finished 16th - and I won three races there before in Superbikes - so that’s a big statement. But they believe me, and that’s what we kept working and we’ve made some headway now.”