Author: Oli Rushby in Valencia Posted: 10 Nov 2015
Eugene Laverty has said he is ‘surprised’ at how quick he was able to get to grips with the Ducati Desmosedici as he made his debut aboard the machine at Valencia this morning.
The Irishman remains with the Aspar Team for the 2016 season as they switch to Ducati, running a pair of GP14.2s with Colombian Yonny Hernandez joining Laverty in the squad.
Heading out for his first run of the day relatively early in the morning, Laverty was initially faster than team-mate Hernandez until a crash saw him forced to take time out while the bike was repaired.
“The bike is nice to ride,” he told journalists at the track. It’s quite placid, it’s got power up top for the short straights, this is a small track, but the power at the bottom makes it really linear and smooth to ride. I was surprised how quick I was able to ride and kept on the same used tyres and my tyres look a lot better than Yonny’s did after the end of the first session so that’s good.
“All the weaknesses we had [with the Honda], the Ducati has replaced them. I’m sure I’ll find some flaws in the bike but it’s not such a fundamental issue like we had with the bike this year.
“The main difference I notice is how much power there is down low, I can really accelerate off the corner. The power is really linear and there when I need it, it’s more about controlling the power when we need it.”
The Honda RC213V-S Laverty rode last year didn’t have a sealmess gearbox as often found on modern MotoGP bikes, enabling riders to change gear without coming off the throttle, but the Ducati does.
“The seamless gearbox is something special as I’ve never had that before. On every bike I’ve ever ridden, whether it’s a motocross bike or whatever, you’re used to that kind of lag and if you’re changing gear as you’re changing direction you have to be careful first of all because the power was instant and I’m used to the lag and accelerating into it. I’ve been riding bikes for more than 20 years and I’ve never had this feeling so it’s definitely a benefit.”
All MotoGP teams will have to use Magnetti Marelli spec electronics from next year but a lot of teams remain with their existing ECUs for the test as they focus their efforts on the new Michelin tyres.
“We’re still using the open electronics but it works correctly. On the Honda we were limited to what we could do. With the traction control I almost didn’t use it because what we were allowed to do on the Honda engine was almost nothing whereas on this Ducati it’s allowed to work correctly so it’s nice to have traction control again.
There have been a large number of front-end crashes throughout the day, with the Michelin rear thought to have much more grip than the front, resulting in the rear pushing the front until it gives in. However, Laverty says his crash was just the result of pushing on a cold tyre.
“I crashed at turn four. I’ve been having some problems with the front tyre slipping and chattering and we made some changes to improve that and give me confidence to push, but I crashed. You have to be careful with the first right hander at this track. I crashed in qualifying with a cold rear tyre and this time I crashed with a slightly colder front tyre.”
Speaking of the Michelin tyres, Laverty said: “The rear has definitely got grip. We were having problems with rear grip all weekend, on entry and exit but now even when the tyre was quite used it still had grip, so that’s good. The front I couldn’t understand yet but it’s clear the front fork setting is quite far away from what I need so I can’t push the front yet to understand the tyre but the problem isn’t the tyre it’s inside the fork, so gradually when we start making small changes we’ll begin to learn.”
For the second year running, the open class Honda left a lot to be desired with riders frustrated that the 2015 bike showed little improvement compared to the slower 2014 model. This left Laverty disappointed with how his season panned out.
“My goals when I signed for this team were much higher,” he explained. “I didn’t have a goal of scoring just nine points this year. I was expecting a big step up when in fact the bike we had wasn’t much different in lap time compared to the 2014 and we had that reference because my team-mate Nicky rode both bikes and at some tracks he was actually slower and at others he was faster so that step didn’t arrive. We were disappointed as a team, they had a difficult year in 2014 and wanted to make the step up in 2015 as they had two good riders but we couldn’t make that step.
“It’s difficult to know how we’ll do next year too. Petrucci was finishing sixth, eighth and arrived in the top ten of the championship this year. He’s going on to the GP15 as well now so that’s another competitor as well but looking at the base package he had he was able to achieve those results so rather than position I have to look at the gap to the race winner.”