Monaco is perfect base for world title-chasing Eugene Laverty

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Motorcycling star Eugene Laverty looks ahead to the new season saying he has unfinished business in World Superbikes.

Monaco is perhaps best known for hosting the most famous Formula One race on the grand prix calendar, as well as the hugely popular Monte Carlo Rally.

For the past year however it has also been the home of one of the world's leading exponents of two-wheel motorsport.

But despite relocating to the principality with a reputation as the playground of the rich and famous, Toomebridge-born Eugene Laverty still has his feet firmly on the ground.

"Just over a year ago I came out to do some training with a friend of mine, the cyclist Nicolas Roche. The weather was fantastic and the scenery stunning so I just fell in love with the place.

"It was very different from the preconception I had from seeing it on television - everyone goes out on their bicycles every day and just enjoys themselves. It's a nice atmosphere.

"I've done some cycling with the Olympic medal winner Lizzie Armitstead and she sometimes makes us look like fools on the mountains.

"The cycling is tough, it's a different discipline, but very enjoyable, though I have to balance it with the rest of my training regime and remember I'm a motorbike racer, not a cyclist.

"You're surrounded by a lot of sportspeople who all compete in different events. When we return home, we compare notes and offer each other some encouragement."

The world's second smallest country is also renowned as a gambling mecca and given his impressive form in pre-season testing with his new Crescent Suzuki team, few would bet against Laverty becoming the first motorcycle world champion to emanate from Northern Ireland since the great Joey Dunlop.

"It's a new challenge for me and a big step to take but after testing we are looking strong and we have surprised a few people so far - let's hope we can continue to do that once the race season starts," said the 27-year-old.

"I wasn't sure whether to move to MotoGP or stay in World Superbikes but I have unfinished business in this series and feel I can challenge for race wins on the Suzuki, and perhaps even the title.

"I'd like to compete in MotoGP one day but I haven't won a world championship yet. Suzuki will return to MotoGP in 2015 so hopefully this proves to be a good option and it will open some doors for me for next year.

"I've been runner-up once in World Superbikes and twice in World Supersport so it's time to take off the bridesmaid's dress and finally win a title.

"I tested the bike for the first time in November and it felt so different to what I'd been riding before so the lap times were quite slow.

"We knew where we needed to improve and the technicians went away and worked really hard for six weeks. I couldn't believe the progress they made in such a short space of time. I thought we'd get there but not just so quickly.

"It's been 94 races since Suzuki last won a World Superbike race and my aim is to bring that record to an end before it reaches the 100 mark."

Laverty is joined in the Dorset-based team by reigning British Superbike champion, Englishman Alex Lowes, who will make his bow in the global series at the first round in Australia on 23 February.

"Alex is fast - he's young and hungry and he wants to win races. We can be good for each other and we will push each other on.

"He can learn from my experience and I can learn some things from him too. He has a different style - he rides hard, he rides aggressive and he knows how to get every last ounce out of the bike."

Former Aprilia rider Laverty began last season in a positive manner 'Down Under', taking second in race one and winning race two, a sequence of results he would be happy to repeat this time round.

"You want to start the season with some good steady finishes, get good points on the board and then build on that," said Laverty, who won nine races on his way to overall second place in the championship last year.

"I finished 2013 by winning both races at Jerez and I'd like to begin the new season in similar fashion at Phillip Island."

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