New McAms Yamaha recruit Michael Laverty was pleasantly surprised by his pace on the opening day of the annual Pro Test at Cartagena in Spain on Wednesday.
Laverty, who joins James Ellison in the new-look Team Traction Control Superbike squad, was having his first outing on the full-blown YZF-R1 he will ride in this year’s MCE British Superbike Championship.
The Toomebridge man, who finished eighth in the series last year for Ulster team Tyco BMW, rode a Yamaha in 2011 in the Swan Racing colours and says the newer version of the R1 feels very similar in terms of its power delivery and chassis feedback.
Laverty was unofficially third fastest behind team-mate Ellison and JG Speedfit Kawasaki’s Luke Mossey.
“I rode the Swan Yamaha in 2011 and after jumping onto this bike today, it feels so similar to that. It’s a newer, lighter bike that stops easier but the actual feeling of how the engine delivers its power and how the chassis steers is so similar and it really suits how I ride the bike,” he said.
“The best lap time I did today was surprising because I didn’t feel like I was really trying and it was just flowing, so I couldn’t believe it and it’s a good positive start.
“I still feel I have a lot of adapting to do with my style to suit how the Yamaha wants to be ridden: I need to flow through the corner a bit more and wind on the throttle earlier. We’ll keep chipping away and try and learn our motorcycle more over the next three days.”
The 35-year-old spent the first part of the day finding a comfortable riding position on the bike but was already feeling confident by the conclusion of the afternoon after posting several fast laps.
“The morning was basically spent getting comfortable on it, adjusting levers and seating position,” said Laverty .
“After lunch we moved to the soft tyre and stayed on one of those all afternoon and started working with the chassis and getting everything into a usable setting for me. We kind of got there in the late afternoon and I did a couple of fast laps and the bike feels really good already for day one.
“We still have a lot of work to do and there is still a few issues that are holding me back in a few areas, but I’m really happy with the lap times that we got to. It’s really positive but there are a few areas with the bike that aren’t quite polished or finished,” said Laverty, in a video interview for the official British Superbikes website.
“We’re waiting on parts from the factory and we’ll receive those for the next test at Donington Park in a few weeks’ time.
“For where we are with the bike development, to be on the pace with the front guys on the first day of the test is really positive.”
A host of top teams and riders are in action at the test, which is organised each year by former Honda and Norton team boss Barry Symmons.
Michael Dunlop was out on track on the Bennetts Suzuki GSX-R1000 and concentrated mostly on his Superbike machine.
The Ballymoney man has been confirmed for the Bennetts Lightweight race at the Isle of Man TT in June on the McAdoo Racing Kawasaki Supertwin.
Tyco BMW’s BSB riders Davide Giugliano and Christian Iddon also clocked up some miles in Spain along with Ian Hutchinson, who will lead the Moneymore team’s international road racing assault and contest the National Superstock 1000 Championship.