Eugene Laverty says a repeat of his sensational World Superbike victory at Phillip Island in Australia last year would be a ‘dream come true’ on his debut for the Voltcom Crescent Suzuki team.
The Northern Ireland star, who finished as the runner-up in last year’s series behind Kawasaki’s Tom Sykes, has been in red-hot form during pre-season testing.
Ahead of this weekend’s opening round of the 2014 championship Down Under, Laverty was at the forefront of the official pre-race test at the awe-inspiring Phillip Island circuit, completing the two-day shakedown with the second quickest time behind Sykes.
His seemingly effortless transition to the Yoshimura-powered GSX-R1000 after two seasons on the Aprilia RSV4 has surprised even Laverty, who looks on course to be right in contention from the off as he attempts to become the first winner of a World Superbike race for Suzuki since 2009.
The omens are good, with Laverty excelling at the Australian circuit a year ago, earning the first of his nine victories in 2013 in race two after finishing the opening race as the runner-up behind Sylvain Guintoli.
This week’s test brought more positive news for Paul Denning’s Crescent Suzuki team, with Laverty and championship rookie and reigning British Superbike champion Alex Lowes setting the second and third fastest laps.
Laverty – whose nine victories last year boosted his win tally in World Superbikes to 11 career triumphs – isn’t getting carried away though as he prepares to focus on his pace over a race duration in qualifying.
“We’ve had two good days testing here with the team so far and it would be nice to start the season strong,” he said.
“I have a good history with the track having won here last year, but having moved manufacturers I wasn’t expecting to be as fast as I was on Monday straight away.
“It’s Sunday that is important so I’m looking to concentrate on some long runs in practice over the next two days and work on my race pace with the Suzuki GSX-R for the opening round,” added the former World Supersport Championship runner-up.
“It would be a dream come true to win again here, but the competition is so high I’m not taking anything for granted.”
His team-mate, Lowes, is making his debut at Phillip Island and has already shown in pre-season testing that he could be a dark horse this year.
Pata Honda’s Jonathan Rea was ninth quickest overall in the Australian test as he enters his sixth consecutive season in World Superbikes with the Ten Kate-backed team.
However, with less than a second covering the top nine fastest riders, Rea will be targeting a podium finish.
Reigning world champion Sykes deserves his status as the bookies favourite to retain his crown and could prove a tough nut to crack on Sunday.
New Aprilia signing Marco Melandri and team-mate Guintoli should also be right in the hunt along with Ducati’s Davide Giugliano and Chaz Davies, plus Sykes’ team-mate Loris Baz and Leon Haslam (Pata Honda).
Dublin’s Jack Kennedy, meanwhile, could be forced out of the Supersport race after fracturing his ankle in a crash during testing.
Sunday’s two World Superbike races are scheduled for 1am and 3.40am UK time.