Eugene Laverty admits that nothing less than a genuine title challenge will suffice in 2013 after taking over from World Superbike champion Max Biaggi as Aprilia’s number one rider.
Laverty finished sixth overall in the series in his first season on the factory RSV4 in a year when the unassuming Northern Ireland star - by his own admission - fell below expectations.
The 26-year-old from Toomebridge did have a victory to show for his efforts at the end of 2012, achieving a hard-earned success at Portimao in Portugal where he held off compatriot Jonathan Rea to wrap up his maiden win on the Aprilia.
Irregardless, it was scant consolation for the former World Supersport Championship runner-up, whose planned title shot crumbled after he suffered a hand injury at the opening round at Phillip Island in Australia and struggled to solve an electrical issue, which stifled his progress for three frustrating rounds.
Laverty, though, has taken heart from a revitalised end to the season, which culminated with his victory at Portimao and a superior performance at the final test at Jerez in Spain prior to the onset of the winter ban, which has filled the works Aprilia rider with confidence as he prepares himself for the unenviable challenge of filling Biaggi’s boots in the Italian team next year.
At home for Christmas, Laverty told the News Letter nothing other than a sustained bid to retain the world crown for Aprilia will be good enough in his second term on the RSV4.
“It was the first season in a long time when I didn’t achieve my goals and that is what was most important to me - that I hit my goals,” was Laverty’s honest assessment.
“I’m always realistic and know what I can achieve and a lot of the time I exceed my own expectations, whereas this time I went into the season with a realistic chance of fighting for the title and we came nowhere near to that.
“To get the win at Portimao was important and I wasn’t sure if I’d get a win because I was having to ride shotgun for Max.
“It means now that I’m going into next season having already won my first race on the Aprilia rather then starting at the first round to try and challenge for the championship without that first win under my belt,” he added.
“I won’t be content next season unless I’m top three and that should mean that I’ll be fighting for the championship.
“I can’t say I won’t be pleased unless I’m champion because everything has to line up perfectly in order to win the title, but my aim is to win the championship.”
Laverty began to hit his stride after the halfway point of the season when his hand injury was no longer holding him back and his team had solved the electrical problem that had plagued him for three rounds.
Nonetheless, he was still unable to fully showcase his potential as he was tasked by Aprilia bosses with helping his teammate Biaggi secure the world title.
“I had been strong in the second half of the season, although the first half of the season was a bit of a disaster and we didn’t really get to show what we could do because of the problems we had.
“Even in the second half of the season when I was much stronger I didn’t get to show my full potential because I had to help Max win the championship,” he said.
“At the final test we were able to show our potential a bit more.
“It took a while to get the bike fine-tuned for me and we didn’t really get the chance to test much last winter, although I was fast when we did at Portimao.
“It was the only circuit we tested at last winter and I was fastest there and then I won the race there as well.
“We had a disastrous start in Australia and then I had an electrical problem for three rounds, which turned out to be a broken sensor,” said Laverty.
“It was one of those seasons when I could make excuse after excuse, but we had a lot of issues and things just didn’t materialise for me.”