After the World Supersport race at Miller Motorsports Park, MotoGPMatters caught up with Eugene Laverty to discuss the race, this season, and his future.
MGPM: Eugene, you led every lap of the Supersport race until Kenan Sofuoglu got by you with a pretty hard move a few corners from the finish. What did you think of Kenan’s pass?
Laverty: I’m still happy enough with second because the most important thing was to beat Cal today. I exited the corner just before [Sofuoglu’s pass] really well. I braked fairly deep and protected the line a little bit, and was already in the corner preparing to get on the gas again when Kenan came into the side of me, maybe 10 kilometers per hour faster than me. So it was a bit of a surprise, and when he hit me I thought we were both down because he hit me with such force but thankfully we both stayed up. Nine times out of ten we’d have both ended up on our backsides, so I was fairly happy that didn’t happen. But I think if I hadn’t been there for him to use as a berm he was going to run off the track for sure. He was able to bounce off me and that kept him to his line. But as long as we both stayed on that was the most important thing, to be fair.
MGPM: I saw the pass on the big screen out on track and it looked like you had to get on defense pretty quickly to avoid giving up second place to Cal.
Laverty: Yeah, I had to because I got put up onto the curbs, and I thought Cal was going to come around me as well, which would’ve been a real bummer. I would’ve been pretty peeved off then, but the fact that I was able to get back into the next right [hand turn] and get second, I was still fairly happy with that.
MGPM: Given your history with Cal and how things went in BSB, is it extra sweet to beat him in such a close race?
Laverty: No, there’s no rivalry in that way; I want to beat everyone out there. It’s just that Cal’s the one at the front of the championship and he’s been the strongest rival consistently this year. That’s why it was important to beat him this weekend. And it think it’s going to be between me and Cal for the championship, so it’s more important to beat him than Kenan on days like this.
MGPM: Do you feel your years riding 250s have been good training for being here in Supersport?
Laverty: Yes, definitely. I learned a lot from the front end feeling, which has come a lot better. For trail braking into the corner, when I raced in ’06, I was pretty fast on the 600 but my feeling for the front end was never as good as what it is now. I can push it to the maximum and I’ve always been good with the rear, so it’s all come together and I’m getting 100% out of my riding now. I’m back with a fantastic team again and we’re challenging for a championship, so it’s nice after two years of suffering.
MGPM: Speaking of your fantastic team, when you signed with Parkalgar did you have any idea that things would work out this well for you?
Laverty: Yes, I knew and had worked with most of the boys before. Brains (Mark Woodage) who’s my chief mechanic, I’d worked with before from ’04 to ’06 before those two dreaded years in Grand Prix. We had a good working relationship and he builds good bikes. Most of the crew are British, there’s a good atmosphere in the garage. Everyone gets on really well and that’s as important as anything.
MGPM: The Parkalgar Honda is one of the fastest bikes out there and seems to be the fastest Honda. What do you think makes it so quick?
Laverty: Compared to Ten Kate’s [Honda], we just seem to have an edge on them. The Yamaha, first to fourth gear they’re a little bit stronger than us, but our bike, in fifth and six just gets wound up and gets going. The most important thing is that ours is the fastest Honda, and I think the best all around Honda, electronics-wise and suspension-wise. So we have to try to maintain that to the end of the year and take the fight to Yamaha.
MGPM: I know you’re focused on this season and winning the championship, but are you watching the Moto2 news, perhaps thinking about a future there at all?
Laverty: Yes, I’ve had a look, and I’m not in any rush there to be honest because of what happened to me in ’07. If you remember, I went with a good team in LCR, but it takes a lot more than that [to win]. It would be a big risk to go back to GP unless I got to go with a team I know well, like Parkalgar; if they were fit to make the move then by all means I’d be interested. But I’m not willing to make the jump back into a Spanish or Italian team with a crew that I don’t know. It’s not worth it when I’m happy here with these guys and fighting for a world title.
MGPM: And have you given any thought to Superbikes as your next step rather than GP?
Laverty: I’m thinking about Superbikes as well. A second year in Supersport wouldn’t be a terribly bad thing. I wouldn’t want any more than two years, but I’m thinking of another year in Supersport, then possibly Superbike or Moto2. But I prefer not to think about it too much because now I’ve got no incentive to push me in any one direction.
Mechanic Phil Roe helps Laverty leave the Parkalgar garage at Miller.
Earlier in the day, MGPM grabbed a quick chat with two members of Laverty’s crew just before he went out for the Sunday morning practice session. Phil Roe, whom you may remember from the Mark Neale film, Faster, and Brains, Laverty’s crew chief, spoke to us briefly about the state of Parkalgar Honda halfway through the 2009 season.
MGPM: What’s it like working in the Parkalgar garage?
Roe: Very good. I’ve been on quite a few teams over the years and this is one of the best. The crew chief on the team is Brains, he got us into sports (racing), that was eleven years ago. So, I’ve ended up eleven years later working with him again, which has been really good.
MGPM: And where did you work together in the past?
Brains: Team Millar, back in 500cc Grand Prix. That was in ’98 with Scott Smart as the rider on a Honda 500cc V-twin. So, yeah, that was good.
MGPM: And how do you feel about your standing at the moment?
Brains: This is the halfway point of the season, and after this round we have to look at where we are in the championship, and then really start concentrating on the rest of the year. I think we’re in a position where we can win it, so we’re very focused on that.
MGPM: I’ve heard some others in the paddock talking about Moto2. Have you been thinking about a possible move there, or are you planning on staying in Supersport?
Brains: We’ve had a look at Moto2, but a new team like us wouldn’t be able to get an entry. Dorna are looking first at the existing teams in that paddock, and they already have 47 entries, I think. So to be honest, this is really only our second year as a team, we’re winning races, and you know, we don’t want to climb the ladder too fast. We want to establish ourselves properly first. I think we’d be more than happy to stay in this paddock and either progress to Superbike or do another year of Supersport.
MGPM: Obviously Eugene has a lot to do with your success as such a young team. But what do you have to do with his success? Having been on uncompetitive machines for two years in 250s, now he’s on one of the fastest bikes on the grid, but does the chemistry of the team contribute as well?
Roe: I think so. It’s just a nice, tightly knit team, isn’t it? He’s a good guy, and we’re all pretty level-headed, feet on the ground, we all do get on with each other. I think the entire package does come together really well, so that reflects on his riding as well.
MGPM: And do you feel the bike itself has an edge on your competitors?
Brains: Yeah, we’ve worked hard in the winter. We were the only team to have a 2009 Honda for the first two rounds, so we got a head start on everybody else. And we seem to have kept that head start going. I think we do have the best Honda out there. And we’ve got a similar sort of package to the Yamaha. So all around we have got a good team and a good bike.
MGPM would like to thank Eugene, his PA Pippa Morson, Phil, and Brains for the warm welcome we received in the Parkalgar garage.