FreestyleXtreme recently caught up with sponsored athlete and PBM MotoGP rider Michael Laverty. Michael very kindly takes some time out before the first race at Qatar to talk about his hopes for the new season.
How is life in the MotoGP treating you, Michael?
It's been good, although I'm not sure you get the full MotoGP experience from the Malaysia tests as the paddock is on quite a reduced scale without the Moto 2/3 teams and none of the GP infrastructure. However life inside my team and on track has been really positive. The travel and climate/cultural changes are something that I quite enjoy rather than seeing them as a pain like some do. I've been away from home a lot already, so I miss Jodi and our dog but it's all good, I'm answering these questions with a sea view and sun on my back, no complaints here!
There is a huge amount of fan support behind you this year. We particularly like the ‘open letter’ article to you from SofaRacer. Have you noticed a difference in reaction from them since you started in MotoGP?
It's been quite interesting, I'm not one to read fan forums etc, but from what I've been told by those close to me who do, there has been a major shift from the detractors originally to a lot of support. It has been surprising, BSB is a top National series but just the fact that you race MotoGP (albeit on a CRT machine) really seems to incite a lot of interest. I shall enjoy the support and like SofaRacer stated, enjoy every minute of being a MotoGP rider!
Your testing in Sepang earlier in the year couldn’t have gone much better. Your confidence must be high after that performance?
It's nice, I won't lie it feels good. Of course I felt that was roughly where I should be in theory but with no prior experience in GP there was a bit of guess work involved. With experience you learn to gauge things, like your level, the competition, their strengths and weaknesses although there can be things you haven't accounted for. I like to analyse everything, I feel I'm a realist so it wasn't a big surprise to me however it did seem to shock a lot of people.
Is it satisfying to prove to your detractors that you deserve to be on the world stage?
For sure, although I don't really get hung up on other people’s opinions, positive or negative, I don't really allow myself to take it onboard unless it comes from a source whom I respect, you know? Arm chair critics can't ever have a true grasp of what is going on, but if I get praise or criticism from say my brothers my parents or my peers for example, that's a different story. It keeps your feet on the ground when you’re doing well and your chin off the floor when things get tough!
You must be getting on pretty well with your new bike then? What sort of things are you noticing as you spend more time with your CRT Aprilia?
Unfortunately I've had a grand total of 70 dry laps on the bike I will race this season, and a lot of those laps were spent refining the base electronics package. At Sepang 1 I rode the ART bike that James Ellison rode last year, it was good as everything worked so it allowed me to just get on and ride it, learn all the nuances of MotoGP e.g. the circuit, carbon brakes, Bridgestone tyres, electronics, etc.
By the final day I was right on the pace with the top CRT guys and finished up 2nd, I was really happy with the ART and felt comfortable on it.
We arrived at Sepang 2 with the new PBM bike, it was a 3 day test and I didn't get to ride it in anger until after lunch on the final day. It definitely was a test of patience, I felt I needed more track time to continue my learning process but it was important to get some data for the PBM bike, so rather than using the spare ART I let my team get on with finishing the new bike. All credit to them they worked harder and longer than any other team on pit lane to get it running and in the end it was very satisfying for them to put a brand new bike on circuit and get damn close to the necessary lap times with minimal track time.
Jerez turned out to be more of the same, although it was the weather that was against us all this time. All I needed was 1 full dry day but for the majority of the test the circuit was too dry for wets and too slippery for slicks. We don't have intermediate tyres in MotoGP but thats what the conditions in Jerez required; for 3 days!
The final hour of the test was dry and that was the first time we adjusted the suspension and made a chassis change, so the reality is that I don't understand the chassis yet but we have managed to get the electronics to a good level in time for the first round.
With the whole season ahead of you, what do you think you are looking forward to the most?
Not one thing in particular but the whole experience, riding on the best circuits in the world against the best riders on the best bikes in front of thousands of fans. It is the pinnacle of Motorcycle racing and I plan to enjoy being part of the show.
What are your hopes for Qatar? Have you or the team set any targets?
I have yes, but it may be a little bit unrealistic at the moment, I had hoped to know better what our level is after the final Jerez test but that was a wash out. I want to be battling to win the CRT race, if I was on the ART bike I would say it confidently but as we still have work to do with the PBM bike just to reach the level of the ART bike in performance I am a little bit reluctant. We will get there with the PBM bike for sure but right now we are a little bit on the back foot for the season opener.
We also read recently that Paul Bird Motorsport landed a sponsorship with an adult movie subscription channel. Not a bad perk of the job, we assume?
Haha, yes there has been mixed reviews from fans on that one but I imagine the male fans won't mind a slightly different look from the promo girls! And no I haven't been given a free subscription before you ask lol
Interview courtesy of FreeStyleXtreme.com