The World Superbike Championship resumes this weekend at Motorland Aragon in Spain where Eugene Laverty hopes to lay the demons of a crippling double DNF in 2013 firmly to rest.
The Northern Ireland rider failed to score any points at the venue, retiring with machine trouble in race one before crashing out of the second race in the opening stages.
His misfortune at the Spanish track last year ultimately had a significant impact on his title hopes as he battled with eventual champion Tom Sykes, who lifted the crown by 23 points.
Laverty made a sensational race debut for the Voltcom Crescent Suzuki team at Phillip Island in February to win race one, although an engine blow-up in the second outing tempered celebrations at the famous Australian circuit.
His performance exceeded expectations as the Toome man put the Yoshimura-powered GSX-R1000 on the top step to give Suzuki its first World Superbike success since 2010.
Laverty, though, feels Phillip Island was a perfect match for the characteristics of the Suzuki and expects this weekend’s second round at Aragon to present a sterner challenge.
“We enjoyed a fantastic start to the season, but we’ll need to continue our form to stay at the sharp end of the title fight,” he said.
“Phillip Island has always been kind to the GSX-R, but the real test will come at Aragon.
“My aim is to stand on the rostrum on Sunday, and if we can do that, then it will be a job well done. We’ve been improving the bike over the past few months but it’s still a work in progress. Rome was not built in a day.”
His team-mate, Alex Lowes, has been working hard on his fitness after dislocating his ankle after a crash during practice at Phillip Island. The reigning British Superbike champion slid off in the first race but rallied to take 13th in race two on his WSBK bow for the British team and will be determined to give a better account of himself in his debut appearance at Aragon.
Pata Honda’s Jonathan Rea, meanwhile, is confident of his prospects on Sunday after making good progress with the Fireblade SP during two recent tests at Cartagena and Jerez with team-mate Leon Haslam.
“I really like the Aragon circuit – it’s a well-designed track that I enjoy riding. We’ve tested there quite a lot in recent years too, so I know my way round there pretty well,” said Rea.
“We had a good test at the end of last season and were able to improve our race pace from earlier in the year, when I finished fourth in race one. But since Phillip Island we’ve had some software updates and some new chassis components that we were waiting on so we’re in a much better position to go racing.
“Aragon’s long straight might not suit the bike quite as well as it suits others, but the circuit needs a good all-round package which we definitely have with the new CBR,” he added.
“I’m looking forward to working with my team through the weekend to get the best set-up and hopefully, with a clean Friday and Saturday, we can be challenging at the front come race day.”