by Nereo Balanzin
Eugene Laverty belongs to the minority group of bearded riders. He has light-coloured eyes (like most of his MotoGP colleagues and snipers) and he wears his surname on the back of his leathers in that emerald green colour that expresses his Irish patriotism. He has a twin brother, Eamonn, who was also the best man at his wedding when he married Philippa: “My wife, but also my best friend. She is the one that pulls me out of my shell. Left on my own, I would often be inclined to solitude”, says Eugene.
Laverty, who races in MotoGP this year with the team Aspar Ducati, will return to Superbike next year astride the Aprilia managed by team Milwaukee. A return: the Northern Irishman competed for four years in the factory derivative championship, from 2011 to 2014, achieving 13 wins and finishing on the podium 32 times. In 2013, specifically with Aprilia, he finished second in the overall championship standings.
Is that what you miss? Battling for the positions that count?
“Yes, but that’s not the only reason. Another element is that, as always happens, your teammate is your first point of comparison. The first, the simplest, the most efficient. But when the bike is not the same, it’s hard to understand what your actual value is.”
What are you happy with after these two seasons?
“First of all, we have grown a lot, even beyond the result (fourth) in the Argentinian GP. And also for another reason: when you have an extremely competitive bike, usually you limit yourself to relying on that, to make it even more so. In other situations, you work a lot more on yourself and on finding a way to do better from within and in your style. In short, if it’s true that MotoGP is a hard school, it is also a school that has taught me a lot.”
If you could take something from MotoGP with you to Superbike to increase its value, what would it be?
“Valentino Rossi. Who knows how the history of MotoGP would have changed if Valentino had decided to concentrate on car racing. In any case, it is difficult to say exactly what it would take to improve Superbike even more where, in any case, there will be some interesting additions next year: Bradl, Melandri...”
A question of names, then?
“Names and competition. Unpredictable results. Four or five years ago, we had seasons with great races, but lately Kawasaki’s domination has really marked the championship. So: talented protagonists, a good show, hard fought races.”
Italians and Irish: two out of three colours on the flag are the same, the white and green, and many say that the similarities do not end there, but that there are many, starting with the hot blood.
“I’m tempted to say yes, partly because, after racing so long surrounded by Italians, I’ve learned a bit of the language.”
(switching from English to Italian) So, we can continue our chat in my language...
(Laverty, in Italian and with an almost imperceptible accent): “we’re better off not. Let’s continue speaking in English...”
As you like, although... Did you study Italian or are you one of those fortunate mortals who learn foreign languages at the snap of a finger?
“I studied. With Max (editor’s note: Biaggi) on the team everything was simpler: he was my official translator. When I could no longer count on his help, I had to stand on my own two feet. It helped that I have several Italian friends in Monaco (Monte Carlo); we often go out on our bicycles together to train, so for a few hours I speak only Italian. It’s fun.”
What is Monte Carlo like?
“There are two Monte Carlos. One that becomes livelier toward the evening and the night, and one that thrives mainly in the morning and the early afternoon. The second is the Monaco for sports folks. My people. WhatsApp helps a lot to stay in touch, but going out to train on our bicycles in the surrounding areas is even more of a bond for us. There are about twenty of us who are connected to the motorcycle scene, but there are also others. Sometimes Froome is there (editor’s note: Tour de France winner).”
Can you keep pace with Froome?
“Yes. As far as the coffee shop on the corner.”