Laverty calls Rea ‘spineless’ for reneging on WorldSBK boycott support

Eugene Laverty says Jonathan Rea is 'spineless' for going back on agreement not to race in Argentina amid concerns over San Juan WorldSBK circuit safety

Eugene Laverty - Go Eleven Ducati

Eugene Laverty has added his voice to criticism levelled at both the FIM governing body and to World Superbike Champion Jonathan Rea for failing to support an attempt to get Race 1 of the WorldSBK event at San Juan Villicum cancelled on safety grounds.

Laverty was one of six riders who’d refuse to compete in race one, citing the Argentinean circuit as being too slippery and risking injury to riders due to the levels of dust and surface oil emerging in the hot temperatures.

On a weekend that has seen the circuit – which only joined the WorldSBK schedule in 2018 – come in for fierce criticism across the paddock for being inadequately prepared to host the event, a protest that had the support of a ’90 per cent of the riders’ – according to Laverty – would have likely seen the race cancelled.

However, in the end 12 riders took to the grid, leaving six on the sidelines: Laverty, Leon Camier, Chaz Davies, Marco Melandri, Ryuichi Kiyonari and Sandro Cortese. Loris Baz was already out after suffering a wrist injury in a crash during qualifying.

Despite a heated discussion between riders and organisers, the FIM pressed ahead with the race, with Laverty accusing them of being ‘underhand’ in going behind the riders’ backs to force teams in applying pressure to race.

“Organisers made teams put pressure on riders”

“We had agreed with the organisers that we would meet and this morning [FP3] it was better in colder conditions but in Superpole it was treacherous when the temperature went up,” the Irishman told Eurosport. 

“So, we talked again but suddenly they went and did something very underhand, they went to the team managers put pressure on us altogether to try and race. Then we put together us riders, we had 90% of the riders together, and that was sorted before the race.”

When asked about the riders that did want to race, Laverty points out that Rea – who together with Davies is part of the riders’ safety commission – supported a boycott initially, only for the five-time WorldSBK champion to take up his front row grid slot.

It was a move that drew sharp criticism from Laverty, branding Rea as ‘spineless’ for bowing to pressure and potentially prompting majority support to collapse.

“There are always going to be a few fellas that want to ride,” he continued. “Rinaldi wanted to ride for whatever reason, but we had guys like the World Champion Johnny Rea with us, stood there ready to support us, he didn’t want to ride, Alex Lowes didn’t want to ride… so there weren’t many riders that wanted to.

“Really disappointed in Johnny Rea, he is our representative as the world champion, he needed more backbone, he made a very spineless decision to go and race. It’s something I will speak to him about afterwards.”

“This track shouldn’t have been homologated”

Laverty goes on to support Davies’ claim that the FIM erroneously allowed the circuit to be homologated despite knowing it wasn’t up to the standard required to host WorldSBK.

“This track should have never been homologated, what is the point of having homologation standards in place if when you come and you look at a list of five items and say ‘they haven’t done anything close to that and feeling pressure from TV and the rest and signing it off on Thursday night. 

“The asphalt level isn’t homologated to FIM standard, the guys that surfaced the track, they didn’t put the correct mix and that is why it is coming up at a certain temperature. 

“When the conditions were cool I did a lap in the 1min 41s and when it was hot I did a 1m 50s, that’s nine seconds, like wet conditions. The track is not up to standard.”

Laverty adds that the riders attempted to compromise by suggesting a change in the schedule that scrapped the shorter Superpole Race on Sunday for two full-length races, before saying he plans to be on track on Sunday as cooler temperatures are forecast.

“We tried to compromise, we suggested last night, we knew tomorrow was going to be hot and if it is we don’t race and we do two full length races on Sunday when the conditions are twelve degrees cooler. That is still the case, I plan to race tomorrow, this little rebellion is only about this race and mostly the organisers have let us down.”

Why is Jonathan Rea under fire?

As WorldSBK champion and representative of riders' safety commission, Rea's words and actions carry a lot of sway with the powers that be.

It is wholly believable indeed didn’t want to race and was prepared to go through with a boycott, but it is understood Kawasaki gave him an ultimatum to ride, no doubt because it is fighting for the manufacturers’ championship with Ducati, which had Alvaro Bautista on pole.

Indeed, other Kawasaki riders Leon Haslam and Jordi Torres were also of the same intention, according to sources, but they also took their spot on the grid. Similarly, Yamaha is chasing third overall in the riders’ standings with Toprak Razgatlioglu breathing down the necks of Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark.

On the other hand, Rea’s decision not race may have rallied enough of the troops – despite pressure to compete – so as to get the race scrapped altogether, but it would have been a dangerous attempt to call the bluff of a governing body evidently on ‘attack mode’.