At the Voltcom Crescent Suzuki team launch, held at the team’s Verwood HQ, we grabbed five minutes with Eugene Laverty, who, after finishing runner-up in the world championship in 2013, is looking forward to challenging again in 2014 on the GSX-R1000.
Eugene Laverty is a thinking man’s racer. That’s why when the quiet but studious Irishman talks, it’s normally something worth listening to. After a challenging but productive winter testing programme, Laverty recorded the second quickest time at the recent Portimao test, and is now raring to go at Phillip Island.
“I’m pleasantly surprised,” Laverty explains when asked about his pace at the last test in Portugal. “I didn’t expect the lap times we recorded. I knew the bike had potential after riding it for the first time, but I thought it would be a few rounds before we got things dialled. But the boys went away and worked hard, especially with the electronics. We arrived in Almería in January and had to do a lot of donkey work to do again, then went to Portugal and thought, ‘lets go for some lap times’, and they were there right away. So our base package is good, and we just need to keep refining things.
“We made huge progress with the electronics over the tests. When i first rode the bike it wasn’t reacting how I wanted and it was causing more problems. But now we’ve got the electronics on the money, in Portugal I wanted to understand the chassis feeling a bit better, but it was raining on and off so didn’t I didn’t get as much as I wanted, so we’ve still got some fine tuning to do, but thats what you do in testing.
“Now I want to work a little bit on rear grip, as I wasn’t’ quite comfortable with that in Portugal; our lap times were good for about half race distance, but I wasn’t happy with how much spinning we had.”
Testing ahead of the forthcoming season, especially for a rider moving on to new machinery, isn’t all about finding areas of bike set up to improve, but also about getting an idea of the bike’s strong areas.
“I really like the front end of the GSX-R, especially through the tight corners. The bike completes the corners so well, which is positive as it’s something I struggled with the last two years, so to get on the GSX-R and have that positive feeling really gives me some confidence. The engine feels strong too, I have to say. I don’t know the top speed, but the acceleration is definitely there and we’ve got a good package.
“The bike responds well to being ridden aggressively, which is good as some other bikes can be ridden to a point, but when you push harder you won’t go faster as you get issues like chatter or run off line, but with the Suzuki, the harder you ride the bike the better it responds.”
With testing ahead of a new season about finding areas to improve, working on set up and getting everything in place before the first round, Eugene explains how he and the team fine tune the bike and the areas to improve.
“It’s nice to be back with a British team and that British way of working is something I’ve missed in recent years. It’s to the point, it’s organised, and we get the job done. It’s a very motivated bunch of guys too. Coming onboard I can see the guys are really fired up and want to win races and that’s good.
“When we go testing I like to pinpoint our weak areas. There’s no point working on the brakes if you can out brake everyone in the field, things like that for example. You need to work on your weak areas, like if your front end feeling is poor, you need to give the rider some feeling.
“You’ve always got to have a plan but always need to be a bit flexible too. In portugal we got some rain but there’s no point sitting in the pits, so we went out there and did some work in the wet weather conditions too. If it rains in Phillip Island then we’re ready.”
With just one more test ahead of the opening round, Euegene is feeling confident that he and the team will be where they need to be to challenge at the front, especially after the pace they showed at Portimao.
“Portimao definitely gave us a massive boost. We had a few frustrations in testing, but once we got those ironed out, it was good just to ride the bike in anger and really go for lap times and was nice and see how easily they came, especially as I think we can get even more out of the bike. So to see that our times were already similar to my race winning pace last year was definitely confidence inspiring.”
But while Laverty’s pace in Portimao was impressive, topping the timing sheets was his rookie teammate, Alex Lowes.
“I’m very impressed with Alex, his pace has been incredible and he is so aggressive on the bike. I’ve seen him on track and he’s riding the bike very hard and really loose and that seems to be the way to ride the Suzuki, he’s really taking advantage of that. You can see his pace at a track he hadn’t ridden before was really strong and I think he’s going to be right up there.”