Eugene Laverty has encouraged his Milwaukee Aprilia squad to make radical changes to transform his RSV4 RF having battled against braking and corner entry issues all season on his return to the World Superbike championship.
After two years in MotoGP, Laverty returned to WSBK with the factory-supported Aprilia squad – the same manufacturer he finished runner-up with in the riders’ championship in 2013 – and while accepting his squad was unable to match the pace of the dominant factory Kawasaki and Ducati efforts this season, Laverty found himself battling braking and corner entry problems. Laverty ended the 2017 season 10th in the riders’ standings with his best results being a pair of fourth places in Portugal and Qatar.
During the post-season Jerez test, Laverty spent two days testing his Milwaukee Aprilia in preparation for 2018 alongside his test rider duties for the Aprilia MotoGP squad with its RS-GP. Laverty felt being able to demonstrate how much later he could brake into corners in a like-for-like comparison between the Superbike and MotoGP machine at the Spanish circuit it would demonstrate the team’s problems and he hopes for “a different bike” for 2018.
“Testing the Superbike and this [MotoGP] bike at Jerez teaches us a lot,” Laverty said. “When the guys saw what I was able to do in braking, I was able to do it right away because I’ve been on a bike that doesn’t want to stop and then you put me on a bike that does want to stop and I’m matching one of the latest brakers in MotoGP.
“We know what we’ve got to do there. The front end of this [MotoGP] bike is completely the opposite of the Superbike and we’ve got to learn from that. We’ve been working on it since Laguna and we’ve made small steps but nowhere near what we need. So something’s got to give. We need to make a different bike before we come back here [for 2018 testing].”
Laverty believes once he finds a fast and comfortable feeling to brake late and turn in with confidence he’ll be able to close the deficit to Aprilia’s factory rivals in 2018. Laverty will commence pre-season testing in late January at Jerez followed by a second test at Portimao before heading to the 2018 season opener at Phillip Island on the 23-25 February.
“We played around with it in Jerez and it helped, but that underlying issue that we’ve got – the bike doesn’t stop and overloads the front – is still a big part of the issue,” he said. “It starts from the corner entry, where the bike doesn’t stop. You can’t stop the bike, it stays on the front and then also if it stays on the front the bike doesn’t turn.
“Then because it stays on the front we don’t have rear grip. It’s all just trying to get that thing off the front and one problem creates three. That’s the issue. It’s just frightening when I see what Yamaha, Kawasaki and Ducati are able to do because we weren’t near that. We’ve got a big step to make before we come back here in January.”