Eugene Laverty gave Milwaukee Aprilia a long-awaited first WorldSBK podium in race two at Laguna Seca, but it was not easy work for the Irishman.
His RSV4 is getting better and better but he feels it still needs more work to remain competitive, especially on worn tyres on corner entry. And he thinks his Aprilia does not stop well enough to allow overtaking, making his race two pole position start a key element of his victory.
“It took me, I think, think six or seven laps to pass Tom on Saturday,” said Laverty, speaking to bikesportnews.com.
“We know that that is the weakness in the bike due to rule changes in recent years. It is tough to overtake. I would say we are driving a truck against cars. If you are driving a truck you ain’t going to decelerate too quickly. Starting from pole position made it a lot easier so I just settled into my rhythm and knew what I could do. I saved a little bit in reserve for those last few laps and then opened up the gap again.”
It was more relief than joy for Laverty to get back to winning ways in Superbike. “For me this is a monkey off the back. All that ‘so nearly the podium’ I have never had that in my career before. I usually just go and win. When I arrived in WorldSSP I think I won my second race.
“When I arrived in WorldSBK I won at Monza a few races in. I have never had that kind of think drag on for a year and a half. Nearly, nearly, nearly. I have never been that guy. So that was a little bit of a monkey on the back and probably played on me mentally too. So it is just nice for us to be able to relax now and settle in to a race weekend without thinking, ‘Oh, it would be so nice to get a podium’.”
Laverty set a blistering pace in morning warm up, as he knew right away that overnight changes had worked for him, and his bike.
“The lap I did in warm-up, I knew I was going to be able to do that from the out lap,” said Laverty. “The lap I did was so easy. That sounds a strange thing to say but whenever this bike had got grip it is was so easy. Me and Johnny always like to go at the start because we always like clear track. It is not a matter of following Johnny. He goes first because if I went first I was going to hold him up.
“On the out lap halfway round the lap I was already pushing and I thought, “Oh, this front end change is already better. I am going to be able to brake with this full tank.” I actually let Johnny go, by almost a second, because I knew I was going to need some space to get back towards him. I knew I was going to go fast so when I saw 1’22.8 I thought, yeah, that is about right. Let’s try and maintain some low 1’23s. Just after about five laps that rear grip on the entry started to go away and I began running through the corners.”
Laverty identifies that lack of rear grip after a period does not help his Aprilia. “And that is the problem with this bike. When we lose just that little bit of grip I cannot stop. And when you can’t stop in the final braking it also means you cannot turn, and you spend more time on the side, so you can’t exit. It just messes everything up.”
He says that not everyone has the same experience, particularly one of his rivals. “There is something that Kawasaki are doing that you can understand they are doing that very well. You can see Johnny was able to maintain that so they just have a great understanding of that bike.
“The Aprilia is capable because for me to sit here and say that that 1’22.8 was easy, it was, that was genuine. But before I knew it I was down to 1’23.6. That is our problem. The internals of the engine are so heavy now, it like a steam roller. It is hard to overtake anybody. The thing just does not stop and feels like it is twice the weight of the other bikes.
“That inertia just keeps on going. Whenever the grip is there, it kind of fights against that inertia. You are braking upright, the front tyre you start to lean in and that is when the rear tyre starts to do its job and the rear grip is there, that does its job. Whenever you lose that little bit from the tyre suddenly it does not have that fall back and we’re screwed.”
Laverty, who missed so much of the early season with a pelvic injury, is now ninth in the title fight.