Eugene Laverty & Lorenzo Savadori On The 2017 WorldSBK Aprilia Title Assault

It was hardly the first day at school for either Eugene Laverty or Lorenzo Savadori but while the bike was similar it was new surroundings for both riders. With the Shaun Muir Racing squad switching to an Aprilia steed in 2017 the opening day of the Jerez test was the team's first experience of the Italian bike.

Both Laverty and Savadori have plenty of experience of the RSV4, the Irishman was a title contender on the bike and Savadori raced it this year, and that certainly helped both throughout the day. For SMR, however, it was all change, having used BMW S1000RR's during their debut WorldSBK season. For team boss Shaun Muir it was clearly an important day for the British squad.

"For us the change to Aprilia signifies that we've got a very strong bond to the factory," commented Muir. "That bond has been shown by the level of people that they have brought trackside to this test, and from Saturday afternoon when we all arrived we've bonded and gelled well together. Inside the garage we've got to blend a British and Italian team but on day one there was a lot of smiles."

"It has been a really good day for us today despite it being wet. Lorenzo has been able to work on a major fork and shock change and he's already feeling good on the bike and happy. This was also obviously Eugene's first experience of jumping back on a Superbike and he's ridden Bridgestone and Michelin tires since then so it was important to get some time on the Pirelli tire. We're really pleased because he's had a good feeling with the tire straight away and he did as much as he needed to do today and set some good lap times. He felt happy to park the bike early and focus on some changes to the bike tomorrow."

Joining the team Laverty was instantly impressed by the operation and the professionalism on display, "I've been blown away by the team. It's been a surprise to see trucks fully branded for test in November and that's not something I've seen often in the past. When I came into the pit box as well it looks like they're ready to go racing. I'm excited and it's clear that the guys in the team are keen as mustard to get started. We're all motivated to get winning and there's a lot of people from Aprilia as well which shows how seriously they're taking it. I'm sure that Aprilia have been impressed by the professionalism of SMR."

Despite the inclement weather the 30 year old came away from the day feeling very positive and reconnected with the DNA of the bike.

"The bike feels very good," said the Irishman. "I've only done 20 laps today but it's not often that you get onto a new bike and you feel at home after day one. I've not had that feeling in a long time so even though it was wet today it was positive. We only did a few exits but that was all we needed today and we're already feeling very good in the wet. I was happy to go out straight away in the wet because I didn't have a good feeling on these tires in 2014 when I last rode them. Immediately I felt comfortable on the tires and had good feedback from them. The first exit was just to get some feedback and see if I could trust the tires and the second exit was about pushing harder. Being back on the Aprilia electronics package also helped because that's as good as I remember if not better."

Having raced in MotoGP for two years there was obviously a lot of interest in how Laverty would readapt to a Superbike but on initial feedback there was little reason for concern from the 13 times WorldSBK race winner.

"I thought that the bike might feel big getting back on it after a MotoGP bike but it's still a race bike and everything feels small and snug and I feel comfortable. I've changed a few things compared to 2014 when I last rode it but that's just how my style has evolved and I was comfortable on it straight away. I felt really at home on the bike on the last run and I'm looking forward to getting some dry running tomorrow."

While the majority of attention today was focused on Laverty his new teammate also had to adapt to new surroundings and a new part of his job; testing. Last year the IODA project came together so late in the off-season that Savadori was unable to undertake any winter testing. Using the same bike that he finished the 2016 season on three weeks Savadori tested some few forks and shocks to evaluate some changes for next year's bike. While the bike was similar to what he had used this year working within a British team was a new challenge for the 23 year old.

"Other than a new fork and shock this is the same bike that I used as year. For me it was important to get today's test and learn about the team and how to work with them. Last year it was an Italian team but to work with a British team is really good for me because I have to improve my English and work with my engineers in another language. I have not brought anyone from IODA although some of the Aprilia engineers are the same. My crew chief is Ian Lord who has been with SMR. My mechanics and the team though is all new for me!"

While Savadori was testing suspension tomorrow Laverty will test chassis and engine options tomorrow. The team confirmed that chassis flex was the area to be evaluated as well as two different specs of engine. The feedback of these evaluations will be the base of their bike for next year and being central to that development is clearly something that will excite Laverty. When asked about how he has improved over the last few years one area he commented on was his feedback and knowing exactly what he needs from a bike in terms of how it handles and delivers its power.

Today was a stepping stone for the team and riders. For Laverty however the goal is clear and that is to finally become a world champion.

"My aim is to be a world champion this time next year. That's why I came back to WorldSBK. I had an option to stay in MotoGP but it was on a bike that wouldn't be able to compete for the top ten. It was either that or come to WorldSBK and fight for the title and I know with SMR and Aprilia that we've got a chance to do that. I feel ready and it's not as if I'm going to have to learn a new bike and that's definitely key for me. To join a new project and a new bike would have been a very different challenge and to win a title in my first year would be an ambitious aim but I know this bike and I've won races on it before. I feel like I'm coming home."

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Shame I can't bet online here in the states.
I truly think these guys will be the revelation of 2017.