Michael Laverty has highlighted the importance of settling into an early rhythm to lay the foundations for a solid campaign in the MCE British Superbike Championship.
The experienced Northern Ireland rider is back on Yamaha machinery this season after joining the new-look McAMS Racing team to ride the YZF-R1.
Laverty, who previously rode a Yamaha under the Swan banner in 2011, is feeling optimistic after gelling with the bike during pre-season testing.
However, he admits that the opening round at Donington Park this weekend is something of an unknown quantity after the official BSB test at the circuit was hit by wet weather last week.
The Toomebridge man, who won the opening race of the season on the Tyco BMW last year at Brands Hatch, said: “It’s exciting to finally get going after the pre-season build up. It’s going to be a bit intrepid, as we haven’t all had the chance to be on track together and set a pace against each other yet.
“The team have worked so hard over the winter to make the step up into the Superbike class and I have a good feeling with the bike and the team already after our initial tests.
“The first round has been good to me in the past, so hopefully history can repeat itself and then we maintain that performance throughout the season,” added Laverty.
“It is important to get into the rhythm straight away because that is the foundations for the whole year and you can build a championship from there.”
The 35-year-old is joined in a strong line-up for Prodigy frontman Keith Flint’s outfit by James Ellison.
Carrick’s Glenn Irwin is also flying the flag for Northern Ireland in the BSB series as he enters his second season on the PBM Be Wiser Ducati.
Irwin bagged two podiums during his rookie season in the class in 2016 and has set himself a target of challenging regularly for the top three on the Panigale R and progressing to the Showdown at the end of the season.
Moneymore’s Tyco BMW team will be hoping for better fortunes after missing out on the Showdown with Laverty and Christian Iddon in 2016.
Stockport rider Iddon has remained with the team, while former World Superbike star Davide Giugliano has been brought in as his team-mate to ride the S1000RR.
Michael Dunlop is also due to ride at Donington on the Bennetts Suzuki as he builds towards the North West 200 and Isle of Man TT.
In the Dickies British Supersport Championship, Gearlink Kawasaki’s Andrew Irwin will be confident of making his presence felt on the ZX-6R, with the promising young Carrick rider among a host of challengers to reigning champion Tarran Mackenzie (McAMS Yamaha).
Eglinton’s David Allingham also falls into that bracket. The EHA Racing rider, fourth last year, is joined in the team again by Ross Twyman.
Clogher’s Keith Farmer is a late addition to the Supersport grid, with the two-time British champion scheduled to contest the opening three rounds on the Team Appleyard Macadam Yamaha as a replacement for the injured Luke Jones.
Farmer, who was effectively priced out of a ride in the Superstock 1000 Championship despite punching above his weight last year on the Quay Garage Honda, said: “I’m not here to make up the numbers, I’m pushing for podiums and wins and we’ll see where that goes.”
Another two-time British champion, Alastair Seeley, returns to the Supersport class to ride the Moto2-inspired Spirit Motorcycles machine alongside Dean Ellison.
Neither rider is eligible to score championship points, but Seeley won’t be content to make up the numbers and has vowed to ‘put the cat amongst the pigeons’.
Unfortunately, Jordanstown’s Andy Reid won’t be on the grid at Donington and remains without a ride this year due to the budget demands from teams, with riders being asked to bring upwards of £45,000 to secure a ride.
Former Superstock 1000 champion Josh Elliott from Ballinamallard also misses out after finding himself in a similar situation.
Free practice gets underway on Friday at the Leicestershire circuit.