World Superbike rider Eugene Laverty labelled fellow Northern Ireland racer and five-time World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea “spineless” following Saturday’s opening race at San Juan in Argentina.
Laverty and six riders including Chaz Davies, Leon Camier, Marco Melandri, Sandro Cortese and Ryuichi Kiyonari boycotted the race over safety concerns primarily relating to the condition of the track surface in the extremely hot temperatures that prevailed on Saturday.
In the lead up to the race, talks were held between the riders and the organisers and Laverty claimed that “90 per-cent of the riders” held the same view that it was not safe to race.
However, after coming under combined pressure from the organisers and team bosses, 12 riders in total took up their positions on the grid, including factory Kawasaki riders Rea and Leon Haslam, plus Spain’s Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Ducati), whose team-mate Chaz Davies was among the six riders who stuck to their initial decision not to take part. Frenchman Loris Baz was ruled out through injury following a crash.
Bautista won the race from Rea and Toprak Razgatlioglu (Puccetti Kawasaki) but the ill-feeling continued in the aftermath, with Team Go Eleven Ducati rider Laverty stating that Rea had “let us down a bagful”.
Speaking to Eurosport, Laverty said: “We had agreed with the organisers that we would meet and this morning (Saturday) it was better in cooler conditions but then in Superpole, it was treacherous once the temperature went up.
“So, we knew that we would talk with them again, but suddenly they did something very underhand: they went to the team managers and put pressure on us all together to try and race, and then we grouped together as riders. We had 90 per-cent of the riders together shortly before the race.
“There are always going to be a few fools that want to ride and there was a couple of guys like (Alvaro) Bautista and (Michael Ruben) Rinaldi who wanted to ride for whatever reason. But we had guys with us, like the world champion Johnny Rea, who stood there ready to support us. He didn’t want to ride, Alex Lowes didn’t want to ride, (Michael) van der Mark – everybody,” Laverty added.
“So, there weren’t many riders who did want to ride and I’m really disappointed in Johnny Rea. He’s our representative as the world champion and he needed to have more backbone, and it was a very spineless decision to go and race; he let us down a bagful. It’s something I’m going to have to speak to him about.”
Laverty said the effect of the higher temperatures on the track surface were underpinned by the difference in lap times, with the 33-year-old lapping the San Juan circuit nine seconds slower when it was very hot during Superpole, compared to his times when the conditions were cooler.
“This track should never have been homologated in the first place,” said Laverty, whose team said they were "surprised and unaware" of his decision not to race.
“The asphalt level is not homologated to FIM standards and the guys who did the track are the guys who did the streets and they didn’t put the correct mix, and that’s why it’s (tar oils) coming up at a certain temperature.
“We always intended to race on Sunday in cooler conditions and we suggested that we do two full-length races instead, it was just about this race today.”
Rea, who became the most successful rider ever in World Superbikes after securing his fifth title on the spin at Magny-Cours in France in the previous round, said it had been a “difficult” race.
“It was a very difficult race. As we know the conditions were not the best so it was more a case of managing myself and the bike inside the limits,” he said.
“I was just riding on the limit to be there so that meant when you take liberties in all the critical areas of the track I was making some mistakes - and just running onto the dirty stuff penalised me a few times. There are lessons to learn for tomorrow.”