Just over two weeks after the stunning double victory in Monza, we've gotten together with Eugene Laverty to talk about his first World Superbike win and his plans and ambitions for the near future, starting with the next round in Miller, USA this weekend.
Sunday at Monza was a very special day for you. Global recognition of your name increased by a huge margin. How did it feel when you finally went to bed that night?
It really hadn't sunk in. I know that's a much overused expression but it was genuinely the case for me. I sat in my motorhome with my girlfriend Pippa and a few friends and watched the races back over a cup of tea. After watching the final lap of race two, I was absolutely buzzing so I put an episode of Irish sitcom 'Father Ted' on TV to try and wind down before bed! The following evening I realized why the whole experience had seemed so bizarre. I remembered that I'd had a dream on Thursday night that I'd won both races at Monza so in a way I'd already went through all the emotions.
Monza was first win for an Irish rider in the WSB Championship. Did you become a celebrity back home in Ireland?
Not quite! I've received a lot of praise within the racing paddock but outside of that I haven't noticed much difference. In Ireland motorcycling is very popular because Joey Dunlop was not only a great racer but also a great man. I only hope to follow in his footsteps.
Just eight races in to the 2011WSB calendar and you have already two wins under your belt, it definitely looks like you are to be considered a strong contender for the title now?
The next few rounds will be very important for me to get into the title fight. At Monza I reduced the gap to Checa from 97 points down to 60 points so it's definitely not out of reach. I believe we can be strong for the remainder of the season. I feel great on the bike but I need to convert that into consistent podium finishes.
When you signed with the Yamaha WSB team at the end of the last season, did you ever imagine you'd be winning at such an early stage?
When I signed with Yamaha I didn't expect that I would be this fast so soon. After testing though I predicted that I'd get my first podium in Assen and win my first race in Monza so I was half right! I've always been realistic with my goals and in fact quite often exceed my own expectations.
What are your targets? Ideally would you like to spend some time as a WSB star or do you intend moving on to MotoGP as soon as possible?
My target is to arrive in MotoGP when I'm ready to make the step. I'm very happy right now riding in the World Superbike Championship with Yamaha so I'm not looking any further ahead than this season. I want to stay with Yamaha and grow together with them as they have believed in me.
You and your teammate, Marco Melandri, came to the team from very different career paths. How much information do you share, and is having ridden 250s and World Supersport better training for World Superbike than MotoGP?
Both sides of the garage share information, that's the key to our success this season. We made big steps forward in the first few rounds because Marco and I offered similar feedback and so the direction was clear. We may have had different career paths but at the end of the day a great rider will figure out the fastest way around the track on any given bike. I was immediately fast on the R1 the first time I rode it at Magny-Cours as was Marco on his first outing at Valencia so this proves that the gap between street bikes and race bikes is much smaller than it's ever been.
Two years ago Ben Spies was a rookie with your current team. He won the World Championship in his first try and immediately went to MotoGP. Last year as a rookie for the team, Cal Crutchlow won several poles and a handful of races and followed Spies to MotoGP. Do you feel any pressure trying to live up the very high standards set by the team's previous rookies, and do you aspire to make a similarly quick transition to MotoGP?
My situation is rather different to Ben's and Cal's. Both riders had ridden superbikes for a few seasons in domestic championships and so they were expected to be immediately quick. The team have put absolutely no pressure on me to perform as this season has been cited as a learning year. Naturally that view will shift somewhat after our fantastic double victory at Monza but there will be times when we're reminded that this is my first season on a superbike. Just look at Donington for example; I struggled there due to my lack of superbike experience. Every rider aspires to compete in MotoGP and so I hope to move there some time in the future when I feel ready. I've only just completed my fourth round in the World Superbike Championship though so I'd rather not get ahead of myself!
The next stop is Miller Motorsports Park. Other than Miller, how much have you seen of the U.S.? What do you like about Miller Motorsports Park, and is it similar to any European tracks?
I've been around various parts of America over the last few years. In 2009 I stayed with Josh Hayes in California ahead of the race at Miller Motorsports Park and last season I visited Las Vegas before travelling to Salt Lake City. Miller Motorsports Park really suits my style, particularly the fast flowing turns which start the lap. For this reason the track reminds me of Assen but really Miller Motorsports Park is quite a unique track. There's no other track on our calendar that boasts a section like The Attitudes! This left-right-left complex is hard work and it's important to be pinpoint accurate through here so as not to touch the side of the bike on the high kerbs. I couldn't have hoped for a better track to follow up my double win at Monza. I'm confident of another podium finish in the U.S. and hopefully I can get myself into the title fight over the next few rounds.
Is there a particular circuit you are looking forward to more than any other this season? If so why?
I really like the next circuit - Miller Motorsports Park in Salt Lake City, but having said that my overall favourite is probably Silverstone. I love the layout of the track and I really enjoy riding it! I guess the results there last year also help - I won the World Supersport race after battling it out with Sofuoglu who later took the championship title.