Eugene Laverty

2019 WorldSBK Testing Round Up: Panigale A Work In Progress, Rea Dominant, Lowes One To Watch

Testing paints a picture but it’s never a complete one. It shows only what the artist wants you to see with their work in progress. The winter is a time to work through your program and do it at your own pace. This year that has been even more the case. With new bikes for Ducati and BMW there is plenty of change in the air of the World Superbike paddock, and after eight days of testing there are arguably more questions than answers.

The Ducati V4R was billed as the weapon to finally end Jonathan Rea’s dominance of WorldSBK. It was a MotoGP-derived bike that didn’t pull punches. It was one that broke cover over 12 months before its competitive debut. It was expected to be a honed creation from the outset. It was expected to be seamless. But instead, Ducati’s introduction of their new machine has run aground this winter.

Circumstances have worked against Ducati. Four days of testing in November were ruined by bad weather in Aragon, and then a bad track surface at Jerez that would need to be replaced. With a brand new surface at Jerez, it was dirty for the opening test of 2019. It took time to clean and it was almost impossible for riders to do long distance stints without excessive tire wear. Coming to Portimao it was hoped that Ducati could get some information on the new bike.

Hampering progress

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Eugene Laverty To Race A Ducati Panigale V4R With Team GoEleven In 2019

There have been some major shake ups on the WorldSBK grid for 2019, leaving some big-name riders without a ride. Today, one of those big names found a home. The Go Eleven Team announced they had signed Eugene Laverty to race a Ducati Panigale V4R in the WorldSBK championship for the 2019 season.

That Laverty should return to a Ducati is hardly a surprise. The Irishman has maintained close links to the Italian factory, and has always had a good relationship with Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall'Igna. Laverty had been linked to other teams considering running Ducatis before finally signing with Go Eleven.

Laverty's arrival means the loss of Ramon Ramos, who has to make way for the Irishman. But the switch from Kawasaki and the promise of support from Ducati, coupled with Laverty's proven potential as a WorldSBK race winner made it an easy choice. 

Laverty's signing sees one big name return to the grid, but others remain without a seat. Xavi Fores found a seat in the British BSB Superbike championship, but Jordi Torres and Loris Baz remain unsigned. More announcements are expected in the coming weeks, as the WorldSBK teams finalize their plans.

Below is the press release from the Go Eleven team:


Go Eleven with Eugene Laverty and Ducati in the World SBK!

With great enthusiasm Go Eleven announces the partnership with Ducati Corse and Eugene Laverty for the 2019 World Superbike Championship!

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Eugene Laverty: Politics Trumps Results, Or How Beating Your Teammate Is No Longer Enough

"'I’ll do my talking on the track,' are no longer words to live by"

Musical chairs is a children's game, but in the grown-up business of the paddock it is still just as relevant as if you were at a birthday party. When the music stops, you need to be sure you have grabbed a seat. Unfortunately for Eugene Laverty he's been left as one of the last riders chasing a seat for 2019, and with Marco Melandri, Loris Baz, Jordi Torres and Xavi Fores all also running in circles, the clock is ticking until the music stops for good.

Having thought that he’d be sticking with Shaun Muir Racing for next year as the team switch to BMW, the Irishman now finds himself on the outside looking in. From feeling secure that he would have a good ride for 2019, he suddenly finds himself staring at limited opportunities.

It's not the first time that Laverty has found himself in a predicament like this. In the autumn of 2013 he missed out on staying with Aprilia and had to search for a ride, which led him from being a WorldSBK title contender to riding an uncompetitive Suzuki, and from this he began a two-year stint in MotoGP. From that he made a return to WorldSBK, which yielded solid progress in his second year with the Milwaukee Aprilia squad. But this was not enough to keep his ride, with Tom Sykes expected to be announced as the rider to replace him.

Public audition

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Discovering The San Juan Villicum WorldSBK Track With Eugene Laverty

The Circuit San Juan Villicum has surprised everyone in the WorldSBK paddock this weekend. With the Andes Mountain range offering one of the most picturesque backgrounds in all of racing, this brand new facility has instantly added a unique circuit to the championship.

The 4.2km circuit has received positive feedback from the riders and teams, and Milwaukee Aprilia's Eugene Laverty offered us his perspective of the track.

“I think that they've done a really nice job with this track and I've been quite impressed with it,” said the Irishman. “It took a day to rubber the track in, but in FP4 it has really started to offer more grip and we could start to push on. Over the start finish line we're able to hold fourth over the start finish straight, it's a bit too slow an exit from the final corner with low RPM to need fifth gear for us, but we're back to first for turn one.

“There's a steep descent into this corner, like at Portimao, and it's tricky going into that corner, but coming around Turn 2 it opens up and we're into second and then through the kink we'll hold second gear even though some riders are able to get into third for it. It's really nice through the faster section as you take third and fourth gear through the sweeping corners, and it's similar to Misano into Turn 6 and 7.”

Passing spot

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Perspectives On A Brand New Circuit - The Rider, The Crew Chief, And The Tire Company

A new circuit presents new challenges for everyone in the paddock. Whether its riders learning the layout, engineers understanding the compromises required of the track, or the challenges facing a tire manufacturer, a new circuit has so many variables.

This weekend in Argentina, the WorldSBK paddock will face that task. For a rider, the build up is spent trying to learn the track with videos or track maps. For an engineer, they'll use the information to hand, length of straights and corner design, to try to come up with a baseline setting for the weekend.

“Usually it's quite easy to learn a new track,” explained Pata Yamaha's Alex Lowes. “We ride at so many tracks that after a handful of laps you typically know the layout and understand where you need to be. I've always been quite good at learning new tracks; if I think back to 2014 and my rookie season in WorldSBK I was up to speed quite quickly at circuits that I hadn't ridden at before.

“There's a lot of ways that you can try to speed up the process and the easiest is to find some on-board laps from circuits or old race footage. Even from the cameras around the circuit you learn a lot about the lines and where you have to be. Obviously, for this weekend in Argentina we don't have a lot of information to use because it's brand new, but we have enough information to know what to expect.”

Grinding gears

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2018 Portimao WorldSBK: What We Learned In Portugal

Jonathan Rea may have had a third consecutive double at the Portuguese round of WorldSBK but that's not to say there wasn't plenty of action and intrigue as WorldSBK resumed following the summer break.

Rea gets creative

Jonathan Rea came away from Portimao with another 50 points and moved ever closer to a historic fourth consecutive title. The Northern Irishman has enjoyed another stellar campaign and has won 12 races already this year. He'll be out to wrap up the crown in two weeks time in France and knows that following his Portimao double, he has one hand on the crown.

“I can't quite believe what's happening right now,” said Rea afterwards. “We knew after coming to the test that we'd be strong, so we kept the bike the same as at the test. I had really good pace to catch Chaz, but he was braking like an animal and I knew that I'd have to be creative to overtake him. I made the move at Turn 10 and it stuck, after that I tried to control the race. I know that my target is to win the title in Magny-Cours because I know that at this point, it's my championship to lose.”

With 116 points in hand over Davies, the title can be secured following Race 1 in France.

Davies digs deep

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A Lap Of Portimao With Eugene Laverty

Portimao is one of the most exciting laps of the year for a WorldSBK rider. The Portuguese circuit is used extensively for winter testing. Last month's official test also offered the majority of the field fine tune their settings for their return to action.

The circuit, nestled in the hills of the Algarve, is testing for riders. There's a bit of everything here and getting your eye in and getting the most from the circuit takes time.

“Portimao is my favorite track in the world,” said an enthusiastic Eugene Laverty. “It's something unique! I’ve done so many laps around this place over the years that I know this place like the back of my hand. At some tracks you need the bike to work in a certain way to be fast because the rider is limited in what they can do - this place is the opposite! It's so up and down that you can sit forwards, backwards and ride around the bike around to find a big chunk of time here. The rider makes the difference at Portimao.

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Pata Yamaha Extend With Lowes And Van Der Mark - WorldSBK Silly Season Set To Kick Off

The WorldSBK series may be on its summer hiatus, but there is still plenty of news going on. After the official announcement that Tom Sykes would not be back with the KRT Kawasaki team, it is the turn of the Pata Yamaha WorldSBK squad to make announcements. Today, the team issued a statement saying that current riders Michael van der Mark and Alex Lowes will remain with the team for the 2019 season.

Though the announcement did not come as a surprise, it does close the door to Tom Sykes, who had been linked to a possible ride with Pata Yamaha, had either Van der Mark or Lowes moved to the Kawasaki team to replace him. But with Leon Haslam set to take the second seat next to Jonathan Rea, Sykes will have to look elsewhere.

These are the first signs that WorldSBK's silly season is about to accelerate over the summer. There are still a lot of open questions left in the WorldSBK series, and a lot of open seats. Complicating issues is the fact that there could be an influx of riders from the MotoGP series now that rides are all tied up in that championship. 

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2018 Laguna Seca WorldSBK Notes - The Wild, Wild West of WorldSBK

The American Frontier was about finding a way to survive. To do this, people from all over the world had to work together and find a way to coexist on the open plains and in the mountains. They did this because they knew the rewards could be massive. Unimaginable wealth lay beneath the rivers and mountains of the West Coast, and everyone believed they would find it.

Every racer in the world also believes that the trophies and points are at their fingertips once they have the tools at their disposal. Finding a way to work with a group of people from all over the world and making them believe in you is crucial. The American Dream was founded on the ideal that anything was possible and the Racer's Dream is based on the belief that you're the best in the world and any issues you're having are just a temporary delay of the inevitable.

At Laguna Seca we had proof once again that the Racer's Dream is real. Jonathan Rea was a highly regarded rider prior to moving to Kawasaki in 2015 but since then he has been all but unbeatable. On Sunday he claimed his 62nd WorldSBK and fourth victory at the American venue. The success that the Northern Irishman has enjoyed has been unprecedented but, at least for Rea, was the gold he'd been seeking in a river bed.

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2018 Brno WorldSBK Notes: Feuding Kawasakis, Parity At Yamaha, Potential From Aprilia

The return of WorldSBK to the Czech Republic proved to be a race weekend to remember. Tensions between Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes overflowed, Alex Lowes delivered on his long held promise and we saw flashes of promise from elsewhere on the WorldSBK grid.

Kawasaki tensions overflow

That Rea and Sykes don't like each other has been clear since the start of their tenure as teammates. The 2013 world champion had been the center of attention at KRT for years and Sykes had developed the ZX10R into the best package on the grid. It allowed him to win races and become a consistent force at the front of the field. Since Rea joined in 2015, however, his power has been eroded within the team and his potential on track has been limited. Their dislike for one another has been clear to see for years but on Sunday it boiled over.

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