MotoGP rookie Michael Laverty has earned the praise of team boss Paul Bird after a stunning performance during the first official test of 2013 at Sepang in Malaysia, which concluded on Thursday.
Laverty, from Toomebridge, recorded the 15th fastest time overall and was credited with the second fastest lap time for a CRT [Claiming Rules Team] machine on the Aprilia ART, finishing ahead of established CRT rider Randy de Puniet.
The 31-year-old joined Bird’s team after opting for a move away from the British Superbike Championship and wasted no time in making an impact.
His time of 2m 03.874s was 3.7s slower than the benchmark set by Dani Pedrosa on the factory Repsol Honda, but Laverty’s target this year will be to challenge for CRT honours and the Northern Ireland rider has hit the ground running, much to the delight of team owner Bird.
“We have had a very successful test and I’m delighted with how everything has gone,” said Bird.
“I have been speaking to Phil and the riders on a daily basis and we have built up a brilliant rapport already.
“I shouldn’t be [surprised], because we have worked with Michael for three years previously and know how talented he is, but I’m surprised at just how well he has gone given his lack of experience with the bike, brakes and tyres at a track he’s never seen before.”
Pedrosa topped the times by 0.3s from reigning world champion Jorge Lorenzo on the works Yamaha YZR M1, with Italy’s Valentino Rossi proving he has lost none of his class following a failed two-year stint at Ducati as he finished third quickest on the second factory Yamaha - 0.4s behind Pedrosa - and ahead of exciting rookie Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda).
Britain’s Cal Crutchlow was fifth fastest on the satellite Tech 3 Yamaha with teammate and series rookie Bradley Smith an impressive eighth.