Few people would have given Michael Laverty a prayer of finishing third fastest CRT rider ahead of this week’s three-day MotoGP test at the long and technical Sepang track.
Yet the Irish rider produced one of the big surprises of the first major test of 2013 when he rode the Paul Bird Motorsport Aprilia ART machine to a best lap of 2.03.874.
That left him just 0.083s behind Randy de Puniet and while Aspar rider Aleix Espargaro was comfortably the fastest CRT rider in Sepang with a best time of 2.02.628, Laverty trounced new teammate Yonny Hernandez and also finished ahead of the likes of Hector Barbera, Karel Abraham, Hiroshi Aoyama and Colin Edwards.
The former British Superbike contender slashed close to three seconds off his pace throughout the test and he admitted that his eye-catching display would have surprised a few people.
Having climbed up the rankings from 25th on day one to 18th on the overall leaderboard, Laverty told MCN: “I think I have surprised a few people. There is so much emphasis put on how long it takes to adapt to the tyres and the brakes and how much harsher the more rigid MotoGP bikes are to ride, I think everyone expected it to take a little bit longer.
I’m surprised I felt quite comfortable so quickly and I’m happy to have achieved my goals. It would have been worse to be scratching my head wondering where I could make up some time. I’m happy enough because I knew I had a lot to learn.
I had to learn the circuit as well as the bike, tyres and brakes but I steadily chipped away and got a little more comfortable. I wouldn’t say I exceeded my expectations but I am kind of where I hoped I would be.”
Laverty’s impressive performance has boosted his confidence that he can be competing to be the top CRT rider in some races during 2013 and he added: “My target coming into MotoGP was to surprise a few people and battle for CRT honours and I think that is realistic.
Someone said to me it must be nice knowing I’m not out of my depth but I never thought I would be. It is nice to prove that I’m not. My goal this season is to be one of the top CRT riders, earn a place here next year and get a prototype engine in a PBM chassis if it all works out. The transition to a MotoGP bike has been quicker than I thought it was going to be.”
Having tested the Aprilia ART machine in Sepang this week, Laverty is expected to switch to the PBM frame for the next test back in Malaysia later this month.
The British-built frame will run an Aprilia motor and use the standard Magneti Marelli electronics package in 2013.
For Laverty’s thoughts on the transition from BSB to MotoGP, see the February 13 issue of MCN, which includes an 11-page Sepang test special.