Voltcom Crescent Suzuki's Eugene Laverty laid last year's demons to rest at the Motorland Aragon circuit in Spain today with an impressive comeback ride to fifth in race one of the eni World Superbike Championship second round.
Laverty initially suffered a poor start to the morning race, dropping to 12th at the end of the first lap. Running wide in the early stages to relegate himself further, the Irishman dug deep on his Yoshimura-powered GSX-R to regain his pace, closing the gap to the front-group to hold eighth by lap 11. The latter-third of the race saw Laverty reignite the charge further, swapping positions to take fifth on the final lap.
Race two initially saw more potential, before a clash with another rider resulted in a drop to 11th. He regrouped and took just four-laps to improve on his qualifying position, holding seventh for the majority of the race before setting his fastest time of the race on lap 15 to cross-the-line in a well-deserved sixth.
Team-mate Alex Lowes continued his progression on the world stage with a debut top-10 at the Spanish circuit. A steady start allowed Lowes to circulate in eighth for the opening half of the race, before being taken by a battling-group and demoting him to 11th. The British rider held his own for the closing stages, overtaking the Aprilia of Marco Melandri on the penultimate lap to finish 10th. A high-side at turn 13 on the second lap of the afternoon’s second race denied the rookie a chance to progress his world championship education aboard the Suzuki GSX-R1000, but Lowes remains confident that he will come back fighting at the next round.
The new-look 2014 eni FIM Superbike World Championship’s early schedule saw the races held in bright and pleasant conditions at the Alcaniz circuit, with the afternoon race reaching a high of just 19°C. Reigning champion Tom Sykes won both races.
Voltcom Crescent Suzuki’s championship contention continues in a fortnight’s time when track-action returns to the iconic ‘Cathedral’ of Assen in The Netherlands on April 27th.
“We salvaged two decent results today. Worst-case scenario, we need to be top-six in any race this year; it was a difficult weekend and we achieved that. In the first race we had the potential to fight for third, but unfortunately I ran off the track twice because we are having problems with a full tank of fuel and the engine-braking control at the beginning. I had the same problem in the second race but I just had to be more careful. At the end of race one, we were really strong; race two I had a good pace, but on lap one Toni Elias hit me and I moved from eighth back to 12th position. That hurt my race a lot so I had to fight back to finish sixth, but I can at least have a smile at that.”
“I have struggled with the bike and the track all weekend. The first eight laps of the morning race I felt pretty good but then the tyre dropped-off quite a lot so I just made sure I finished. We made some improvements to the bike in the break and I actually felt better in the first lap of the second race, until the crash, and the rest is history. I scored three points in my first race, I scored five here so at least I’m getting better! We go to a track that I know next, which is really good for me. Obviously it’s going to be easier for me to improve when I know the track and hopefully it will be easier to get the bike set-up as well, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Paul Denning – Team Manager:
“Two difficult races today for the team, but a fifth and a sixth for Eugene were not such bad results in terms of points, and it could have been a lot worse based-on the early race positions. Eugene did very well to claw his way back into contention, and what he scored today will hopefully be very important to us as the season progresses.
“Alex’s learning-curve at World Championship level continues; the Aragon track is particularly tricky and to come here with no testing and go head-to-head with the best Superbike riders in the world was never going to be easy. He made good progress across the course of the weekend and it was a shame that the crash in the second race didn’t let him continue that learning curve. We move on to Assen, Imola and Donington for the next three races, and as a team we are confident that those circuits will suit the Suzuki better and that we will be able to challenge for the podiums.”
Aragon – eni FIM World Superbike Championship – Race One: 1. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) 33’38.583: 2. Loris Baz (Kawasaki) +4.275: 3. Jonathan Rea (Honda) +8.418: 4. Chaz Davies (Ducati) +15.715: 5. Eugene Laverty (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) +19.305: 10: Alex Lowes (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) +29.863.
Aragon – eni FIM World Superbike Championship – Race Two: 1 Sykes (Kawasaki) 33’37.223: 2. Baz (Kawasaki) +0.338: 3. Marco Melandri (Aprilia) +0.470: 4. Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia) +5.429: 5. Rea (Honda) +8.861: 6. Eugene Laverty (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) +15.986: DNF: Alex Lowes (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki).