TOOELE VALLEY, UTAH (May 17, 2011) -- Miller Motorsports Park will again host the USA Round of the FIM Superbike World Championship on The BigM Weekend presented by Lucas Oil, May 28-30. Leading up to the round at Miller, we have been visiting with race winners and other notable riders participating in the championship after each race during the 2011 season to bring you a new chapter in the "Five Questions with" series.
Today's subject is the second rider from Northern Ireland in as many installments. Eugene Laverty, who rides the factory No. 58 Yamaha YZF R1 for the Yamaha World Superbike Team, hails from Ballymena. One of three motorcycle-racing brothers, along with siblings Michael and John, he came up through the ranks in the British 125cc Championship and British Supersport before moving up to the 250cc GP World Championship in 2007. He split time between the 250GP and World Supersport championships in 2008 before moving to World Supersport full-time in 2009. He finished second in the championship in 2009 and 2010 before ascending to the World Superbike Championship this year. He swept both races at Monza on May 8, garnering worldwide attention and propelling himself to fifth place in the championship standings.
1. 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 the 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 gone through all the emotions.
2. 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.
3. 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 has 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 sometime 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!
4. The crowd in Monza was hostile towards the podium finishers because of Max Biaggi's penalty. What was your feeling about their reaction and do you think the punishment was justified?
This has been talked about a lot following Monza, but it's as simple as this: Over the past few seasons, the rules have been the same for cutting the chicanes at Monza. The punishment may not fit the crime for such a small mistake, but we've all been aware of the severity of this and so we've made very sure to obey the rules. Max did not obey the rules, and he paid the price. I overshot one of the chicanes in race two, but I made sure to re-enter the track correctly so as not to suffer this fate. I didn't feel that the crowd was hostile, to be honest. I've no doubt that there was tension in the air between the rival Italian riders' fans, but they gave me a warm welcome on the podium as well as in the paddock afterwards.
5. Other than the race at Miller Motorsports Park, 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 traveling 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 curbs. 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.
The fifth round of the 2011 FIA Superbike World Championship will be The BigM Weekend presented by Lucas Oil at Miller Motorsports Park over Memorial Day weekend, May 28-30. Support races from AMA Pro Road Racing will include the National Guard Superbike Championship, the Daytona SportBike Championship, the Motorcycle-Superstore.com SuperSport Championship and the Vance & Hines XR1200 Championship. There will also be concerts on Saturday and Sunday nights, May 28-29, and a major tribute to our armed forces in recognition of Memorial Day. Max Biaggi swept both World Superbike races at Miller Motorsports Park last year riding for the Aprilia Alitalia Racing team enroute to the World Championship. This year's World Superbike races will be broadcast on a same-day/tape-delay basis on SPEED Channel at 5:00 pm and 6:00 pm (EDT) on May 30.
To obtain tickets for or information about The BigM Weekend, visit the event-specific website at www.BigMWeekend.com or call 435-277-RACE (7223). For information regarding Miller Motorsports Park, visit the track's website at www.MillerMotorsportsPark.com.