Michael Laverty is hoping an updated electronics package will boost his hopes of a maiden points scoring finish in the first European MotoGP clash of 2013 at the Jerez track in Spain on Sunday.
The Paul Bird Motorsport rider had a tough debut in Qatar last month but showed signs of significant progress with the new British-built PBM chassis in Texas when he fought his way back from dead last to finish in a creditable 16th place.
Laverty will be given updated electronics from Magneti Marelli for this weekend’s Jerez race, which should be a huge step in curing a persistent throttle connection issue for the Irishman since he started using the standard ECU at the second Sepang test in Malaysia back in late February.
Laverty told MCN: “The channel to smooth out the anti-jerk as we call it hasn’t been available but now it has been unlocked with a software upgrade for all the teams with the standard ECU. With our bike it seems quite snatchy and has been something we’ve been trying to smooth out with fuelling and doing a masking job to soften the initial touch. But there is a strategy that we hope will fix it in Jerez. There’s a lot of work to do on electronics because the (Aprilia) ART was so in line on the brakes and this one is dancing around a lot. We still need to work on the initial pick-up because that can make the bike pump a bit and if we can get that smoother we can get more drive. The ART can find traction but my bike just slides and they go away and that’s still the big area we are lacking with electronics. I think a lot of the acceleration grip is from the throttle connection. That means you lose that jump off the corner all of the time and you can’t be smooth with it because it upsets the bike and you can’t get it back in line again. Corner entry stability and cornering can be improved with the electronics and we need to understand the chassis a bit more.”
Laverty said that while the electronics had not been completely fine-tuned during the first two races it had been difficult to make an accurate assessment of the new PBM chassis, which houses an Aprilia ART motor.
He added: “When you’ve got no throttle connection the chassis doesn’t feel great. You think it is breaking traction all of the time but that’s because you have to be so precise with the throttle opening. If you try and be a bit more aggressive it lifts you out of the seat a little bit. It’s that split second when it breaks traction and you lose turning.
It is slowly getting there and if we can get the throttle connection the way it should be that will be a big step forward. But we are making progress with the chassis. We made some big weight distribution changes in Texas by pushing the engine forward and it seemed to make it easier to get a better feeling with the front. We thought with this bike we could work off some of the ART geometry settings but it is a completely different chassis and weight distribution and doesn’t seem to work.
Even the Ohlins guys were saying the ART data is useless and we need to start from scratch and find our own way with it. Compared to the ART we have moved the front 10mm further into me and the rear wheel back out 20mm to put the engine weight forward so when I chop the throttle I get a bit of weight transfer to the front.
I haven’t been getting that but it was fine on tracks where it is mostly upright braking. I can feel some progress with the chassis and actually work the front tyre now a little bit so I’ve a lot more confidence than I had in Qatar. It is coming better but the bike was still a little bit difficult to ride.”