Could Milwaukee Aprilia Be the Dark Horse of WorldSBK?

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Eugene Laverty was second on the timesheets for both days in Portimao, and afterwards the Irishman declared that he was happy, confident, and aiming for wins from the opening round of the WorldSBK season.

“I feel a lot more confidence ahead of Phillip Island after this test,” said Laverty. “We’ve had six days on the bike now. The November test was just to get used to the Pirelli tyres again, and by the end of that test I was feeling ok with them.”

“At Jerez, I had planned on moving forward from where we were in November, but we lost a lot there because of the chatter.

“Here in Portimao though I made that headway, and now I feel that I’m riding the Pirelli tire exactly as it needs to be ridden, and also riding this bike is big for me too. I know exactly how the Aprilia should feel around here. When you have that experience of the bike, it means that we can realistically expect to fight for wins from the off.”

At the Jerez test, Laverty struggled with braking and chatter but in Portugal, on the notoriously bumpy Portimao surface, the Milwaukee Aprilia squad made lots of progress to solve the problem.

A positive attitude was certainly in short supply for Laverty following the Jerez test. The handling problems and a heavy crash, when hit from behind by Randy Krummenacher, could have left a lasting mark on the Irishman physically and mentally, but the progress made has left him refreshed and ready for the season opener.

“It was a good test in general,” concluded Laverty. “I was lacking so much confidence in Jerez because I couldn’t attack and every time I’d lean into a corner I’d have so much chatter that I was expecting to crash.”

“I saved a lot of crashes in Jerez so it’s so nice to be able push hard again here because that’s what riders enjoy. It’s great to push the bike and see what you can do with it lap after lap.”

“We made a good step, but it’s one thing to make an improvement and find a good lap time – it’s another to make it consistent. We did that on the second day with a few steps and I’m definitely a lot more comfortable with the bike and doing a lot of laps.”

“It felt good for me, and it was also important to put in the qualifier and see how it felt for me after two and a half years away from WorldSBK. We did a good time with that tire too, so we could tick off a lot of the boxes that we wanted from this test.”

Michael Shanley, team boss for the 2017 season, came away pleased with the progress that has been made, and afterwards he didn’t shy away from the high expectations of the opening round.

“We made some big steps forward with the feeling under braking for Eugene and compared to Jerez it’s much improved,” said Shanley. “At the end of the test he said that he was a lot more comfortable, and he was saying how happy with how hard and how late he can brake into Turn 1.”

“Portimao is obviously very different to Jerez, but we think that this will be a positive step forward at all tracks.”

“Everybody will have strong expectations about Phillip Island for us. Lorenzo [Savadori] had a baptism of fire there last year with no testing and now he’s going there with a good stint of testing under his belt.”

“He’s been going strong all winter and the expectation he’ll have for himself will be high. Eugene has always been strong at Phillip Island and the Aprilia has always had a good history there.”

“We’ll go there with a positive attitude,” Shanley concluded.

Photos: © 2016 Steve English – All Rights Reserved

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