Just in case there was ever any doubt, Eugene Laverty clearly showed that he will be a force to be reckoned with in the 2011 World Superbike Championship after coming away from a three-day test at Phillip Island as the quickest of the four riders taking part, including World Champion Max Biaggi.Laverty, the runner-up in the 2010 World Supersport Championship, ended up lapping at a best of 1:31.5, .6 of a second quicker than Biaggi, on the final day in what was his third outing on the Yamaha R1 Superbike. For comparison's sake, Leon Haslam earned pole position in the 2010 season opener at Phillip Island with a 1:31.229 in Superpole, then set the fastest race lap of the weekend in race one - a 1:32.193"I'm pretty pleased with the test - it's a nice way to go into the winter break," Laverty said in a team release. "In the three days we got a lot of laps done; the second day especially was big breakthrough. So far we've had two one-day tests so the second day here was where we really made the bike mine. The race times on the 2011 machine weren't so far away from 2010 bike so we're developing in the right direction. The new Ohlins front fork is definitely an improvement. I'm still learning this bike so we are fine tuning it as we go."Laverty and his teammate Marco Melandri spent the three days going through various combinations on both the 2010 and 2011-spec R1s, including the new Ohlins fork.Having come from MotoGP and riding production-based motorcycles for the first time in his career, Melandri is still getting used to the difference between the stiffer GP bikes and the "softer" superbike. Still, despite a crash on day two, Melandri ended up with a best lap of 1:32.4."It was a good test in the end; the three days were very intensive," Melandri said in the release. "It was quite challenging at first working on the 2011 machine, but during the second day we started to find a way and then third day we found a big improvement and found a good pace for the race. The rain meant we couldn't find a good lap time with a soft tire, but for me that wasn't what was important here. The difference between a MotoGP bike and a superbike on this track are huge, the bike moves a lot more so the faster corners are very different but step by step it's getting better and better. The feeling is very good; I'm very happy. The track is a difficult track so we have done well and I think we can be very strong for the first race here next year."

World Superbike Headlines

By Cycle News Staff

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