Michael Laverty wants to avoid a repeat of last season’s nail-biting end to the MCE British Superbike Championship, when the Tyco BMW rider only confirmed his place in the top six at the final round before the all-important Showdown.
Laverty salvaged a podium finish from a difficult weekend at Snetterton last time out, taking third in race two to leave himself eight points behind Buildbase BMW rider Richard Cooper, who currently occupies sixth place in the standings after the first five rounds.
The Toomebridge man admits it is tougher than ever to nail down a place in the Showdown, but Laverty is confident he can mix it with championship leaders Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne and Leon Haslam this weekend at the high-speed Thruxton circuit in Hampshire.
“I am looking forward to Thruxton because I feel the Tyco BMW S1000RR will be so much better there this year compared to last season,” said the popular 35-year-old.
“We know we have the pace and at this stage of the season we need to be bagging those big points for the Showdown. We need to be fighting for podiums and I think we can be up there challenging with Shakey and Leon.
“It has never been tighter in the top six since it was first introduced, so that is why this stage of the season is so important,” Laverty added.
“I think Thruxton and then Brands Hatch GP will both be good circuits for us, which should be our opportunity to really push for the top six, because I don’t want a repeat of last season where it went down to the final round before the Showdown to confirm my place.”
His BSB team-mate, Christian Iddon, holds fifth place and is 14 points ahead of Laverty in the points table.
In the Pirelli National Superstock 1000 class, Tyco BMW pair Josh Elliott and Ian Hutchinson will expect to be pushing for the top step as they throw down their challenge for the title.
Reigning champion Elliott has yet to taste victory in his maiden season for the Moneymore-based TAS Racing team but has been edging ever closer, while roads star Hutchinson took the honours at Snetterton as he returned to the top of the rostrum in the Superstock class for the first time since 2009.
Hutchinson is only 11 points behind Buildbase BMW’s Taylor Mackenzie, with Clogher man Keith Farmer (Quay Garage Racing Honda) in turn only 11 points further adrift in third place.
Ballinamallard rider Elliott is 36 points behind Mackenzie but he hasn’t thrown in the towel in his quest to retain his crown.
“A Tyco BMW won at Thruxton last year and hopefully we can repeat that this weekend again,” he said.
“Snetterton is now behind us and what will be will be, but for me I’m in a stronger place mentally than I have been for a number of rounds.”
Meanwhile, Carrick’s Glenn Irwin has been making sound progress in his rookie year on the Be Wiser Ducati Panigale R and the 26-year-old, who recently became a father for the first time, is growing in confidence all the time.
“After the steps forward on race day at Snetterton, we are looking for that from the beginning of the weekend at Thruxton,” Irwin said.
“My team is working so hard to give me the package I need and I know it sounds like a cliché but we really are improving every weekend. The fast turns of the track should suit our bike so I’m hopeful of some good results.”
Practice commences on Friday with the two BSB races taking place at 1.30pm and 4.30pm on Sunday.