Eugene Laverty backs Jonathan Rea to win Superbike title
Eugene Laverty believes his former rival and compatriot Jonathan Rea can realise his dream of becoming World Superbike champion this year.
Laverty was second in the series in 2013, but opted to move to MotoGP for 2015 after a disappointing season with Suzuki in World Superbikes last year.
"I've been telling everyone Johnny will be world champion. I'd bet my house on him winning the title," said Laverty.
"He hasn't let me down by winning the first race straight out of the blocks."
Rea added a second-place finish to his victory at the opening round at Phillip Island last month and looks set to be a title contender on his Kawasaki, after finishing third on a Honda in 2014.
"For me, as soon as Johnny signed that contract, it was another reason for me to make the move to MotoGP.
"Johnny on a top bike was always going to be a hard combination to beat and once I couldn't get my hands on a Kawasaki or an Aprilia I knew it was time to move on."
Laverty, 29, finished a disappointing 10th in last year's championship, having won at the traditional season opener in Australia.
"The year started so well with that win at Phillip Island but that turned out to be the high point of the season.
"I knew the bike would suit some circuits better than others but I didn't think things would be just as difficult. It was a tough year.
"There were days when I was lying fifth or sixth and I ended up in the gravel trap, so from that point of view, it was a learning experience too, as I realised that sometimes you're better settling for a top six.
"I always said I would stay in World Superbikes if I had the option of competing on top level machinery - race-winning bikes like Aprilia or Kawasaki.
"But unfortunately those options weren't on the table, while a really good option surfaced with the Aspar Honda team in MotoGP, so I jumped at the chance."
The second of the 13-round World Superbike campaign will be staged in Thailand on 22 March., with Rea and Leon Haslam joint top of the standings on 45 points apiece.