You have to weave through a thronging crowd, avoid long tubes lying curled up on the ground, and hop over hundreds of feet, to get to the giant, grey doors. A discreet sign – one you can miss quite easily – tells you exactly where you are: Aprilia Racing Team.
Push the doors open, and breathe the rarefied air of a championship-winning team. It’s a big day. Eugene Laverty, in his second season for Aprilia, has just taken a win at the second WSBK race, making up for his 3rd in the first race. There is a hum of excitement as a group of Aprilia fans wait for the winner to make an appearance.
But Laverty is not there. The podium ceremony is long over. The ceremonial champagne now sits on a side table with the flowers and the trophy. Laverty has been whisked off for a closed-door interview. After that, it’s a one-on-one with the fans in a large tent right in the middle of the Paddock.
Meanwhile, a deep roar rises up in the background, as riders for the World Supersport Championship leave their garages and head to the grid. It’s their turn to race. All eyes turn to the screen as the race begins. Laverty returns halfway through. But it’s just a brief reprieve. He smiles at the cameras, posing with the fans, grabs a few minutes to chat with the folks at Pirelli, and gives a fast-paced interview, before he is whisked off for another Q&A with a journalist.
He will be back, an Aprilia team member says, smiling, as he carries a tyre into the work floor behind. The fans continue to wait; holding on rather possessively to posters waiting for Laverty’s autograph. When the Irishman returns, there will be more photographs, hands to be shaken, and congratulations to be accepted.
He is back soon enough and stands in the garage chatting with 2012 World Champion Max Biaggi. They discuss the race, the tactics, the mistakes, the successes, and then, the next race – at Donington Park. Soon though, it’s time for yet another interview. He smiles, grabs his drink, and sits down on a chair.
There is much to celebrate. It is a very satisfying feeling, he tells me. If you win the first race and lose the second one, you feel pretty awful, he says. “But if you win the second race as well, you go back with a big smile.” Winning at Monza makes a difference too. “It is especially nice winning a race this time at Monza, especially since the atmosphere is fantastic,” he adds.
The win is timely. What started out as an Aprilia success story in Philip Island (teammate Sylvain Guintoli took the win in the 1st race, and Laverty in the 2nd race), ended in an absolute disaster at Aragon, with Laverty scoring a double DNF. It is a different story now.
“After winning the two races here, I have managed to close the gap. Now, I am 13 points behind, which is not so much,” he says. But Laverty is careful to point out that the next race will be challenging. “The Donington round will be different. It is a difficult round for me and the Aprilia,” he says. “But I will be aiming for the podium. That’s what I want. I want to be on podium everywhere this season.”
His determination is evident. The win today was “satisfying”, he says. “I made amends.”
Amends, he says, for a mistake he made during the first race. “I left the door open.” Marco Melandri grabbed the opportunity and snatched Laverty’s win. During Race 2, Laverty says, he found himself in the exact same situation, and then “fixed the mistake”. It worked. “I don’t mind making mistakes,” he says, “but only if I correct them.”
Ask him how he prepares for a race, how he decides his game plan, and Laverty pauses, taking a sip of his drink. He tries to plan, he says, “not a 100 per cent, but what I would do, if this happens or that. I plan a little the night before”. But the actually strategy becomes clear on race day. That’s when, he says, he figures out the actual play in the race.
Now, the SBK circus makes it way to Donington Park. It’s 11 days to go. But the historical circuit is a familiar one. And this year, SBK travels to three new circuits – each with its own characteristic and set of challenges. “It’s good for the championship,” Laverty says and adds that the track in Istanbul is “fantastic”. “The past few seasons, it has mostly been European circuits, especially after we stopped going to Qatar and South Africa. But now, the championship is expanding, and it is great for the sport’s exposure.” It helps too he says with a smile, that the riders will now get to travel a bit to different parts of the world.
And what of India, I ask? After all, the Buddh International Circuit (which was supposed to host the race early this year) will now welcome SBK in November. “I have seen some layouts,” he says. “I have seen the F1 races and it seems like a fun track.”
It will be interesting too, he adds, as it is the last round of the season. “It could very well be the decider. I know every rider wants the championship clear with five races to go, but I don’t think that this will happen this year. This year, it will be exciting and it will be exciting to be in India for the finale,” he adds.
Before long though, it is time to wrap up the interview. It’s time to celebrate, because this has been a hard-won, much-needed victory. Soon, it will be back to working on a perfect bike set-up, and a fight for yet another podium. There is a lot of work ahead. After all, this win has now solidified Laverty’s standings. The championship is a mere 13 points away. And the Irishman is hungry for a podium at every race.
Coming Soon: Interviews with Tom Sykes and Loris Baz, and a peek into the world of the Mahi Racing Team. Of course, there will be the race reviews too! Keep a look out.
All images, except where indicated are copyright Chitra Subramanyam/Riding Fast and Flying Low