Eugene Laverty emerged from two years of despair in 250cc grand prix racing to win his first World Supersport Championship race in an extraordinary sprint to the line on his Parkalgar Honda CBR600 in the second round of the series in Qatar.
The 22-year-old Ulsterman shot out of the slipstream of the Australian Andrew Pitt, on one of the legendary Ten Kate Hondas, as the pair rocketed up the finishing straight, and just made it to the flag.
And Yamaha’s Cal Crutchlow, 23, gave Britain an incredible two riders on the podium when he beat the 2007 World Supersport champion Kenan Sofuoglu, on the second Ten Kate Honda, for third place.
Crutchlow and Laverty had already pummelled the Ten Kate opposition in qualifying by finishing first and second fastest. But a question mark remained over their ability to hold their nerve in fairing-to-fairing WSS action over 18 laps of the Losail circuit against their more experienced opposition. Sofuoglu already had 13 victories in WSS
racing, and Pitt seven.
Crutchlow bounced off the line first, but Laverty quickly took over at the front. No one else apart from the Ten Kate pair then had a look in. And it was the young Brits who looked the coolest performers as Sofuoglu in particular made wild moves in his desperation to get head.
Pitt led a couple of laps from the finish, but Laverty dived ahead on the finish line as they started the final lap. Had he gone too soon? Pitt tried to cut inside on a left-hander, and then succeeded in getting to the front on turn 12. But Laverty kept a cool head and gave team manager Simon Buckmaster a jolt of joy by squeezing by for the win.
“I enjoyed that a lot,” king-of-cool Laverty said later. “Andrew’s gearing was better than mine on one part of the track, but the bike was very fast and I got him over the line.”
In a more serious moment, Laverty touchingly dedicated his win to the late Craig Jones, the young Briton who helped to develop the Parkalgar Hondas last year, but was tragically killed in a racing crash.
1 Eugene Laverty, Ireland (Honda)
2 Andrew Pitt, Australia (Honda)
3 Cal Crutchlow, GB (Yamaha)
4 Kenan Sofuoglu, Turkey (Honda)
5 Robbin Harms, Denmark (Honda)
6 Matthieu Lagrive, France (Honda)
7 Garry McCoy, Australia (Triumph)
8 Massimo Roccoli, Italy (Honda)
9 Anthony West, Australia (Honda)
10 Barry Veneman, Holland (Suzuki)