EUGENE Laverty admits he is pleased to see the back of the opening round of the World Superbike Championship after a difficult visit to Australia.
The honorary Durham rider endured an uncharacteristically tough weekend as he made his debut for the Aprilia Racing Team at Phillip Island.
After fracturing the third metacarpus on his left hand in a crash during testing earlier this month, it was always going to be a hard opening round for the young Irishman.
He rested up for the majority of last week and flew his doctor out to Australia, spending up to five hours a day working on the injury to give him a fighting chance of racing over the weekend.
Taking to the track on Friday he was deemed fit to race, but his chances took another blow when he took a tumble during the first session and was treated for minor concussion.
He was all ready to race by the time Sunday arrived and, following the cancellation of Superpole due to a fatality on the track earlier in the day, he lined up 11th for both races.
A quick getaway in race one saw him jump up to seventh in the opening lap and, despite dropping back a few places in the following laps, he was back on a charge as the 22-lap race reached the halfway point.
However, disaster struck a few laps later when his Aprilia RSV4 suffered a gearbox problem and he ran off track. He managed to re-join but with various problems he was forced to retire a few laps from home.
Determined to make amends in race two, Laverty got another quick getaway, moving up to ninth.
After a tough race which saw much battling on track, he finally crossed the line in a commendable eighth place, despite suffering pain from his injuries.
Laverty admitted the weekend had been one to forget, but he had been impressed with the performance of his RSV4 machine.
He said: “In the end, if we think about what has happened, I am not disappointed. I would have been happy with two placings in the top 10.
“It was a shame the bike went into neutral in the first race which forced me to run on.
“Race two was just as difficult due to my condition after the crashes, but all in all eight points can prove to be important in such a long and difficult championship.”
While Laverty struggled with a bad weekend, it was a different story for his Aprilia team-mate Max Biaggi, who leads the championship after winning race one and finishing second in race two after coming through from dead last following a run off at the first corner.
Laverty added: “I have to say hats off to Max, even if I had been fit I think he would have been very hard to beat out there.”
The next round of the Championship takes place at Imola in April.