Irish bike superstar Eugene Laverty lapping up life in the fast lane
HE is set to challenge for the World Superbike series this year, but Eugene Laverty is already living life in the fast lane in Monaco with the rich and famous.
Last week, the World Superbike paddock descended on the famous Circuito de Jerez in Spain for pre-season testing.
And the Sunday World had an exclusive, behind-the-scenes audience with Eugene as he prepares for his assault on the championship.
He revealed how he gets bike-fit with “Team Paddy” in his new home in Monaco, training with a host of Irish professional cyclists, including Nicholas Roche.
And the motorcycle superstar’s wife, Pippa, gave us a glimpse of what life is like for the world’s superbike star and revealed which F1 legend throws the best parties in the Lavertys’ adopted home of Monaco.
Pippa and Co. Antrim man Eugene met in the racing ‘paddock’ and got married in Dromoland Castle in December 2015.
Two weeks before the big day, Eugene broke his wrist and dislocated his shoulder and they had to put their honeymoon to St Lucia off for 12 months.
That is not all that they are putting off, as Pippa tells me: “We won’t be starting a family for three to four years.”
The Lavertys have a house in Northern Ireland, but they call Monaco home at the moment.
There is a community of the world’s top sports stars in Monaco and Eugene cycles two to three hours a day before going to the gym and training with renowned Irish cyclists
Nicolas Roche, Philip Duignan and Sam Bennett – “Team Paddy” as he refers to it.
And Pippa lets slip that there are other reasons to fall in love with Monaco, telling me that: “David Coulthard has the best parties!”
She adds: “Prince Albert invites all the Irish to the Palace on St Patrick’s day, where he even has a replica of an Irish pub. Well, he is almost Irish himself, with his mother being Grace Kelly.”
Eugene was in the world-famous Circuito de Jerez in the Andalusian countryside, which is the setting for what is considered a “private test”.
In theory, this is just a “shake down” test so no-one is really looking for times, but nothing could be further from the truth.
This is serious business and championships have been won and lost by mistakes made even at this early stage. When you see ex MotoGP World Champion Nicky Hayden putting on a qualifying tyre at the end of the day, you know he cares about the times.
Eugene’s career began a long way from all this. Starting his asphalt racing career in Mondello Park in Co. Kildare in 2001, he soon set his sights on the British 125cc championships.
Back then, with his two bothers Michael and John, Eugene says racing was just a hobby, but with the help of his family his career took off.
“It’s so much harder for Irish riders. I was only 14 when I started and my dad would drive me and my brothers Michael and John over to the U.K.,” Eugene says.
“Without my family, it would be nigh on impossible to do it.
“In the future, that is something I would like to do – to help out younger riders because it’s so much harder for them financially to get over the water.”
Family is still important to Eugene and he even has his brother-in-law as his crew chief.
“It always keeps your feet on the ground as a lot of riders get carried away with themselves. They are the people who know you best and you need people around you who you can trust.”
Eugene is returning to World Superbikes after a very credible 13th overall and fifth Independent Rider in MotoGP with Team Aspar in 2016.
His departure from the team wasn’t without controversy. Aspar had signed Spaniard Alvaro Bautista for this season, but then Ducati dropped the bombshell that they would be only supplying one GP16 and one GP15 bike, which would have left Eugene riding out-dated machinery.
“Aspar are a Spanish team with a Spanish sponsor [Pull&Bear] and Álvaro is a Spanish rider, but I’m definitely not bitter about it,” Eugene says.
“The reason I went to MotoGP is to see how I would fair against those guys, but without the same machinery there is no way of finding out.”
The season starts proper in Phillip Island, Australia, on February 25 and expectations are high.
On the back of Eugene’s helmet he has his own take on the Fighting Irish logo.
Come February 25, you just know Eugene will come out fighting and giving his all for that world title.
By Kevin McNulty