Michael Laverty has already made quite an impression in the MotoGP paddock over a month before the first round of the world championship blasts off in Qatar.
The experienced Northern Ireland rider announced his arrival on the biggest motorcycling stage of all in early February when he finished the first pre-season test at Sepang as the second-fastest CRT rider behind Aspar’s Randy de Puniet and ahead of the Frenchman’s team-mate, Aleix Espargaro, who topped the class during its inaugural season last year.
With his own Aprilia-powered bike still in the process of being built, Laverty achieved the stunning result on his MotoGP debut in Malaysia on the same ART machine as his team-mate Yonny Hernandez at the beginning of February.
However, at last week’s second official test at Sepang, Laverty was finally granted the chance to put his new bike through its paces.
And despite only managing a handful of laps on the all-new machine during the three-day shakedown, the 31-year-old was only 1.6s adrift of the benchmark time set by the class-leading Aspar ART of De Puniet.
Laverty told the News Letter his initial performances have quickly dispelled the notion entertained by some in the MotoGP paddock that his inclusion in the class this year would prove to be a ‘joke’.
“A lot of people in the MotoGP paddock seem to be surprised by our pace which is nice in some ways but also insulting in others as well, because it’s as though they didn’t realise the level of the front guys in BSB,” he said.
“I think they thought that me coming to MotoGP might be a bit of a joke really, so it’s nice that people are saying I’ve surprised the paddock by jumping on the bike and being at the level of De Puniet [at the first Sepang test] because he’s been in MotoGP for years.
“But I’m happy enough to keep the surprises coming and I’ve a lot to learn yet and more improvement to come.
“We were one and a half seconds behind the top CRT last week but we had very little time on the bike and I think I only managed about 15 laps in total and the majority of those weren’t actually fast laps.”