Eugene Laverty was looking at unexpected unemployment recently, until a WorldSBK deal was cut with the former Kawasaki runners GoEleven, managed by former racer Denis Sacchetti.
The fourth Ducati rider on the grid this year, Laverty got his first go on a Panigale V4R at the recent Jerez and Portimao tests.
Hopping off a semi-official Aprilia RSV4 on to Ducati’s new but unfinished WorldSBK weapon gave Laverty food for thought, especially as his team has opted to use Bitubo suspension, not the Öhlins units that bike would otherwise come with. The forks seem fine right now but the back end needs work, it seems.
“We made the move to Bitubo halfway through day two at Jerez already,” Laverty told bikesportnews.com. “It wasn’t too bad because the surface was grippy and there were not too many bumps, but on the two corners where there were bumps the bike was unrideable.
“So I knew coming here to Portimao would be a good test track for us because it just amplifies the problem. Sure enough right away it was really difficult to ride. The rear was bumping everywhere and no grip. We improved it a bit but still not enough. It is still the issue. We leave here feeling there is more work to do. We need to improve the rear of the bike.”
Laverty has access to a pool of Ducati information – with Davies, Bautista and Rinaldi also on V4Rs – but there is a limit to what can be transferred over to his machine, especially with different suspension in place on his.
“We are on different bikes, essentially,” said Laverty. “There are so many different components now. The data is comparable and it is good that I can look at their data. I followed a few riders on track and Johnny on the Kawasaki – and in braking and turning in mid-corner we are similar. But just as soon as he turns that gas, I am on ice.
“It is not really going to produce a lap time. Whenever I am with Johnny it looks like he is on a qualifier. I don’t know how many he laps he had on his tyre but I was on a new one. I had no grip so that is where all our lap times are going to come from. I was pushing hard to dip into a 1’43, and I have gone two seconds quicker than that on race tyres before, so it is still a huge margin.”
Laverty is getting more used to the characteristic of his new bike, which he seems to rate as an overall package already.
“The bike feels nice in terms of the engine and gearbox,” said Eugene. “It is so nice, with a really linear engine. Even under hard braking the bike feels so settled and decelerates well, so the base of the bike I know is really good.
“But as soon as you touch the gas and the rear tyre does not dig in, you are screwed. It is frustrating because I know I worked on the Aprilia for a year and a half to find grip, and we did. And now I am back to a similar issue with a completely different bike.
“On this bike the potential is much, much higher than what I have had in the last few years, so I just want that rear to hook up. Then I will be able to produce the lap time we are missing right now. It is a big thing to be missing.”