Eugene Laverty will return to the World Superbike championship in 2017 after penning a deal to ride in an all-new factory Aprilia squad run by British outfit Shaun Muir Racing.
The news comes after the Northern Irishman rode to an impressive sixth place in Sunday’s Czech Grand Prix and while he had a solid offer to remain in MotoGP next year with his Aspar Ducati squad, the Spanish outfit could only offer him the two-year-old Ducati GP15 while would-be new team-mate Alvaro Bautista got the more up to date GP16 machine.
“Machinery was what tipped the balance between MotoGP and WSB,” Laverty said, speaking exclusively to MCN. “You should always be on equal bikes to your team-mate. If one’s a year older, some people don’t realise that and as a racer you can’t give away that advantage.”
The 30-year-old wasn’t short of offers to return to World Superbikes with options on the table from the two manufacturers presently dominating the series, Kawasaki and Ducati, but it was a return to the marque with whom he finished runner-up in 2013 that tempted Laverty back to the production-based championship.
“I won nine races on the Aprilia and finished second in the championship in my last year and I’m hoping that means I can pick up where I left off and go there fighting for a world title. I’m not underestimating the challenge, because the opposition there is fierce at the minute. Jonathan Rea will likely be the 2016 champion and he’s starting to gather momentum that could be hard to stop.”
Shaun Muir Racing’s move to Aprilia marks the end to a challenging debut season in the Superbike World Championship. Under the banner of Milwaukee BMW, it’s been a tough year for the squad as they have struggled to form a consistently competitive package with the S1000RR and riders Josh Brookes and Karel Abraham.
Laverty will be joined in the new-look Milwaukee Aprilia squad by Italian youngster Lorenzo Savadori, who has impressed aboard the somewhat uncompetitive IODA Aprilia this season.
A press release confirming the news is expected from the team imminently.
For the full story on Laverty’s return to WSB, see today’s MCN.
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