Michael Laverty: Is the former British Supersport champion the busiest man in motorcycle racing?

By Richard PetrieBBC Sport NI
Michael Laverty
Laverty rode for TAS BMW in his final full season in British Superbikes in 2018

Former British Superbike frontrunner Michael Laverty can perhaps lay claim to the title of 'the busiest man in motorcycle racing'.

The County Antrim native may not be donning his leathers as frequently these days but his roles in several areas of the sport mean his calendar is looking busier than ever.

In a distinguished racing career, Laverty finished fourth in the British Superbike series three times and also competed in MotoGP, World Supersport and latterly World Endurance.

The 39-year-old was British Supersport champion in 2007 and won the Sunflower Trophy, the premier race in Northern Ireland short circuit racing, a record six times.

His current schedule has been curtailed by the restrictions resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic - although he has been interviewing leading personalities from the world of motorcycle racing as part of a series on Instagram during lockdown.

Packed schedule

When racing does get underway his itinerary should involve being an on-course adviser to brother-in-law Chaz Davies in World Superbikes, racing in World Endurance, setting the wheels in motion for a youth academy, working as an analyst on television coverage of MotoGP and helping his former team, Synetiq TAS BMW, in the British Superbike paddock.

"Last year I was at a race track pretty much every weekend for nine months and this year promised to be just as busy until coronavirus came along but hopefully things will get going again soon," said Laverty.

"World Superbikes is scheduled to get underway in the first weekend in August and dependent on the UK's two-week quarantine restrictions I hope to go to Jerez in Spain with Chaz for the second round of the series.

"I help him by giving him feedback on his performance and those of his rivals on different corners around the track, maybe ones where he is struggling, and with technical input. Sometimes what you see on the track and what the data logging shows is slightly different.

"It just helps fill in the gaps to help the crew chief and when you combine all that with what the rider is saying it helps put the picture together.

"It's commonplace now. All the top riders have ex-racers doing that for them, Jonathan Rea has Fabien Foret doing it, a pair of eyes who can see things, notice things and help fill in the blanks in the team garage.

"I'm excited about what Chaz can achieve this season. He came good in the second half of last year and although he had a tough first round at Phillip Island in Australia and we had a few issues he was strong in the final race and his partnership with the V4 Ducati has lots of potential."

Divided WSB loyalties - brother vs brother-in-law

Laverty, now based in Herefordshire, admits to having something of divided loyalties in World Superbike with one of Davies' rivals being Michael's brother Eugene, this year BMW mounted for Shaun Muir Racing.

"When I started out in the job with Chaz Eugene was racing in MotoGP, but then he came into WSB with Aprilia and our brother John [also a former racer] was in Eugene's corner. We would trade information and bounce ideas off each other.

"I want to see both of them do well and always talk to Eugene but I am there to assist Chaz and I believe he has a good opportunity to win races again, show he has the ability and speed to take the fight to Jonathan Rea.

"Jonathan is still the benchmark, the man to beat, but I think Eugene can be challenging for podiums and there are lots of riders and manufacturers who can be in the mix at the front this year.

"Johnny is obviously happy to be the dominant force but for everyone else WSB has probably become a bit predictable and it would be nice if it became more competitive."

Chaz Davies, Jonathan Rea and Eugene Laverty on the World Superbike podium at Misano in July 2018
Chaz Davies, Jonathan Rea and Eugene Laverty on the World Superbike podium at Misano in July 2018

Rea and Davies 'not best of friends'

Both Davies and Eugene Laverty have been involved in well-publicised spats with Rea over the last couple of seasons, the Welshman locking horns with Rea in Superpole qualifying at Assen in 2017 and the two riders clashing with the five-time world champion at Argentina in October 2019.

"When you are big rivals there is always going to be the chance of some friction and tension - they are professional racers for whom their whole focus for the year revolves around preparing and aiming to be the best man out there on track," argued Michael.

"Chaz and Johnny used to have an 'ok' relationship but that broke down with the Assen incident and then they clashed again at Argentina so it's fair to say they are not best of friends.

"I stay out of all that. Johnny understands that I'm in Chaz's corner from a professional perspective and can separate that from the personal end of things."

Not hanging up his leathers just yet

Michael has resisted the temptation to hang up his leathers completely since last racing a complete BSB season in 2018 and he has the Le Mans-24 hour World Endurance race in late August in his sights.

"I have to wait and see if the dates work out, if the coronavirus restrictions permit it to go ahead and if my old team Penz13.com team, run by Rico Penzkofer, intend to take part. If I'm free and there is no clash with WSB and MotoGP I hope to be on the grid.

"I still enjoy doing some racing when I can so I don't intend to fully stop in the foreseeable future as long as I'm fit and well and can still ride a bike close to its limit. I did four World Endurance races last year and also had a one-off ride with Tyco BMW in BSB.

"I had a tough year in BSB in 2018 and knew I was going to struggle to justify keeping my seat for the following year or get a ride with another team.

Michael Laverty leads Alastair Seeley and Glenn Irwin at the Sunflower Trophy meeting at Bishopscourt
Michael Laverty leads Alastair Seeley and Glenn Irwin at the Sunflower Trophy meeting at Bishopscourt

"I could have tried to hang in there and find something but I decided to try and continue racing where I could while dipping my toe in the television side of things. That crossroads came a little bit earlier than I wanted but for now I am enjoying the best of both worlds.

"I've enjoyed working with the BT Sport team and love travelling round the world and being around the top bikes in the world. MotoGP is a nice paddock to be in.

"They are hoping to get the championship off the ground in mid-July and maybe 12 races during the second half of the season if we are lucky.

"When I first joined MotoGP as a rider in 2013 I felt a bit intimidated but the people are similar to those in BSB and it's a nice atmosphere where you can have fun.

"There can be a little bit of a language barrier but English is the predominant language so I can manage ok. When we come back this time from a tv presentation point of view it's likely to be off-site in the UK - either in studio or at an outside venue."

Youth Academy to give kids a springboard

Laverty recently secured sponsorship for the youth academy he plans to use to nurture and tutor young up-and-coming motorcycling talent in the UK.

"I have always kept a close eye on the mini bike scene and my plan is to selected 10 of the most talented kids, aged from eight or nine to 14, put a support package together and try to provide a bit of structure to their tuition using the contacts I have built up through all my years in the sport.

"Hopefully we can get a test day organised for August or September to get things started so firstly we could concentrate on selection from those who would like to attempt a career in motorcycling and then next year get the thing up and running.

"It is something I always thought about doing but because I was so busy with my own racing I never really had the time to get involved. The aim is to bring those through who don't have the money but have the talent and help them realise their potential.

"It's something I think can be very good for the future, taking the chosen kids on track days and teaching them on little bikes at all the circuits that British Mini Bikes race on.

"Hopefully I can open doors and set them on the right path and ideally we can bring someone through into the British Talent Cup, the new Moto3 championship within BSB.

"It would be good to give someone that chance, that platform, every year and give them the real basic learning that they need."

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