Shortly after qualifying for the recent German Grand Prix at Sachsenring, Asphalt & Rubber photographer Tony Goldsmith sat down with Aspar MotoGP Team rider and class rookie Eugene Laverty, to get some insight into how a MotoGP rider prepares for a race.
On race day I also had the opportunity to photograph Eugene in the build up to the race, talk to him about his routine, and discuss the special tribute helmet he was wearing for the late Dr. John Hinds.
A&R – Can you talk me through your routine from the end of Sunday morning warm-up through to the start of the race?
EL – I come into the pit box after warm-up when the session finishes at 10 o’clock and debrief with the guys for 30 to 40 minutes. Afterwards I’ll get changed out of my leathers in the race truck and do a little bit of stretching.
Moto3 starts at 11 o’clock and I’ll watch it on TVm so I can see the starting lights and the first few corners. I know some riders go to the grid but I don’t see any reason as they always show the lights on TV.
It’s nice now because in the past, in Superbike, I was never able to watch the Supersport race as we were always too busy with the two races. Now I have a good chance to watch the Moto3 and Moto2 races so I can actually stay quite relaxed.
After the Moto3 race I go back to the motorhome to eat lunch and watch the Moto2 race. As soon as the chequered flag comes out from that race I start to get ready in the race truck which is usually around 1 o’clock. I’ll warm up, then stretch for around 20 mins. I’ll get into my race suit around 1:25 and go to the box around 10 minutes before we go to the grid.
It’s a really relaxed schedule and I always prepare my spare helmet, visor, gloves, knee sliders, etc on Saturday evening, so I don’t have to stress about those things on race day.
Eugene leaves his pit box to start the warm-up session.
Returning to the pit box at the end of warm-up.
Debriefing with his crew.
A&R – Do you normally eat the same thing before each race?
EL – Yes. I like to have some pasta and some chicken. I don’t have a sensitive stomach, so I can have a little bit of tomato sauce and maybe an espresso afterwards.
The key thing for me is hydration, I’ll take on some electrolytes to make sure my levels are correct and ready for the race. I try not to drink so much that when you arrive on the grid you have to go to the toilet again.
A&R – Do you have superstitions? I’ve heard some riders have lucky underpants or lucky socks. John McGuinness drops a penny down his leather. Do you do anything like that?
EL – I refuse to have superstitions even when things happen on repeat. I just refuse to believe it, it’s bull**** isn’t it? There’s nothing to it.
In the past I’ve had certain superstitions but now I do everything exactly the same anyway because for me it’s about routine. Nothing changes, I make sure I do everything the same way.
A&R – Once you get onto the grid do you have a specific routine that you follow in the way that Valentino Rossi does?
EL – No for me I prefer to speak with the crew around me about relaxed things, not even about racing. I think through everything the evening before and maybe after warm-up and come up with my plan for where I’m going through Turn 1.
I think if you begin to think about it on the grid that’s too late and you’ll put pressure on yourself. I prefer the plan to be already in my mind so I can stay relaxed when I go to the grid and then there’s no real feeling of pressure.
Lunch time and a chance to watch Moto2.
It was painful just watching Eugene go through his stretching routine.
A&R – Is it particularly important for you to have Pippa (Eugene’s fiancée) and John (his older brother and ex-British Superbike privateer champion) with you?
EL – It is. You’ve got your own little team around you and it is important as the paddocks may change but it doesn’t feel too different. We’ve got the same motorhome, Pippa’s there and my mechanic Phil who’s been with me for a long time.
Whenever I came to visit Michael (Eugene’s other racing brother) racing in MotoGP, I would notice how different the MotoGP paddock was as you’d pick up on everything and I thought it would take some getting used to, but when you’re here racing you don’t notice it.
A&R – Talking about Michael. Are you looking forward to racing with him tomorrow?
EL – Yes. Unfortunately we haven’t had a good weekend, either of us, for various reasons. We’ve got a big issue with our tyre pressure, a real amateurish problem.
Michael has had a broken engine and all sorts of technical problems so we’re not where we want to be. We’re around 23rd, and I think we’re both a lot better than that and deserve to be further up the order.
A&R – Have you raced against each other before?
EL – Yes, in 2009 we did in World Supersport. Michael did around five rounds as wild cards and I was riding with Honda battling with Cal (Crutchlow) for the Championship. It’s nice to be racing again together; we’re just not having a good weekend so far.
A&R – One last question I wanted to ask. As a photographer I’ve stopped using a flash on the grid and in pit lane. Does the use of flashes irritate you, or are you able to zone out from it?
EL – Even if it’s not sunny I prefer to wear sunglasses on the grid because of the flash as it can give you white spots and stun you a little. Wearing the sunglasses can help. I’ve experienced problems with flashes a few times out on track coming from the service road, maybe at a test, which is really not good as it can stun you.
A&R – Thank you very much for your time and best of luck for tomorrow.
Eugene’s brother John was on hand to help him into his leathers.
Eugene on the grid with his brothers Michael and John.
During Sunday’s race Eugene wore a special helmet to pay tribute to his friend, Dr. John Hinds, who died at the recent Skerries 100 Road Races in Ireland. The helmet, made by Shoei Helmets, was a replica of Dr. Hinds helmet.
Dr. Hinds was a travelling doctor at road races in Ireland and earned his nickname as ‘The Flying Doctor’ by saving countless lives in both the racing and medical communities. He also worked as a fervent campaigner for a Helicopter Medical Support unit in Northern Ireland to offer quick response to serious accidents within the country.
A petition was started following the accident to continue Dr. Hinds campaign for HEMS NI with over 45,000 people having signed to date. If you would like to add your name to the petition you can do so here.
Asphalt & Rubber would like to pass on our condolences to the family and friends of Dr. Hinds.
Photos: © 2015 Tony Goldsmith / www.tonygoldsmith.net – All Rights Reserved
Tony Goldsmith is an Isle of Man based freelance motorcycle racing photographer specialising in MotoGP and the Isle of Man TT races. His website can be found at www.tonygoldsmith.net. He can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.