Northern Ireland’s Eugene Laverty says he was left ‘devastated’ following confirmation he would not be retained by Shaun Muir Racing for the 2019 World Superbike Championship.
The Toome man had been seemingly confident of retaining his seat next season, when Muir will switch manufacturer from Aprilia to a factory-supported BMW effort.
However, Yorkshireman Tom Sykes – who lost his Kawasaki ride after being comprehensively beaten by team-mate and four-time world champion Jonathan Rea over the past four years – was named as Muir’s choice to lead the team in a late twist.
Laverty, who finished as the runner-up to Sykes in the 2013 championship, said he had been ‘excited’ by the prospect of riding the S1000RR, and feels being replaced by Sykes is a bitter pill to swallow.
The 32-year-old believes Sykes – who will join Superstock 1000 champion Markus Reiterbeger in the team – has underperformed in recent seasons.
“I’m devastated to hear the news that Tom Sykes will be replacing me at this late stage as I was excited at the prospect of riding the factory BMW in 2019,” Laverty said.
“Tom’s a great rider but in the past two seasons he’s only outscored his team-mate in five out of 50 races. I’m a numbers guy so that’s the definition of underperforming in my opinion.
“Since returning from injury this year I’m proud of my performance on the Milwaukee Aprilia. When you consider two statistics it’s clear that the Superbike World Championship has been dominated by three other manufacturers lately,” he added.
“Prior to my back-to-back podiums at Laguna Seca and Misano it had been 55 races since a non-Kawasaki, Ducati or Yamaha was on the podium. (Honda at Magny Cours in October 2016). Prior to my pole position at Portimao it had been 36 rounds since a non-Kawasaki, Ducati or Yamaha clinched Superpole. (Honda at Buriram in March 2016).
“The last non-Kawasaki, Ducati or Yamaha to win a race was also Honda at Sepang in May 2016. Just two opportunities remain in Qatar to end that 70 race run with a win before the SMR team and I part ways,” he added.
“My crew at SMR have been a pleasure to work with. They are a fantastic group of guys and they worked tirelessly this year. I only hope I get the opportunity to work with them again in the near future.”
It is understood that while his options for next season are limited, a ride with the Red Bull Honda team may be one possibility. Laverty, though, says he will fight to earn a place on the grid in 2019.
“It won’t be easy to find a seat having been informed of my replacement so late but I won’t give up,” he said. “After all, I’m a fighting Irishman.”
A crash early in the season at Buriram in Thailand in March left Laverty on the back foot. The former MotoGP rider suffered a broken pelvis in the incident and made his racing return at Imola in Italy in May.
His results this year include two rostrum finishes and a pole position. Ahead of this weekend’s final round in Qatar, Laverty is ninth in the standings, one place ahead of team-mate Lorenzo Savadori.