Eugene Laverty is facing a critical weekend in the World Superbike Championship title race as the Istanbul Park circuit in Turkey hosts a round of the series for the very first time.
Aprilia Racing contender Laverty is currently fourth in the standings, 40 points behind Kawasaki’s Tom Sykes with four rounds remaining.
He has won four times this season, but a series of non-finishes have put a significant dent in his aspirations of following in former MotoGP star Max Biaggi’s footsteps, who lifted the world crown last year for the Italian marque.
Laverty has previous experience of competing at the Istanbul Park venue in the past during his stint as a privateer rider in the 250cc Grand Prix class.
With eight races remaining, the Northern Ireland rider can ill-afford any more errors in his quest to reel in the title pace-setters.
“I raced in Istanbul back in 2007 in the 250cc World Championship so it’s not entirely a new circuit for me,” Laverty said.
“I expect that it will be much different on a superbike though so I will need to relearn the circuit. I’m still in the title fight and I will do my best to outscore my championship rivals this weekend.”
Jonathan Rea is sidelined for the Pata Honda team after breaking his femur in a nasty spill at the previous round of the championship at the Nurburgring.
Rea has been replaced by Michel Fabrizio, who has jumped ship from the Red Devils Aprilia outfit.
Fabrizio, whose ride has been taken over by 2010 Moto2 world champion Toni Elias, had a ‘get well soon message’ for the injured Ulsterman.
“I would also like to take this opportunity to wish Jonathan a fast recovery from his injury and I would like to thank the whole Honda Superbike team for their hard work to fix the bike,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Belfast and District Club will re-run its Irish Superbike Championship meeting at Kirkistown on Saturday.
The event was abandoned last weekend due to bad weather.
Any competitor who had entered the initial meeting is eligible to compete at no additional cost.
Admission is £10 per person (children under 12 free with an accompanying adult). Practice is set to commence at 9am with the first race scheduled for approximately 1pm.