If consistency counted for anything, PBM MotoGP rider Michael Laverty would be a major contender after recording his fourth 16th place out of five races following this weekend's Monster Energy Grand Prix de France which comprised round five of the 2014 MotoGP World Championship at Le Mans.
Following a fraught free practice and qualifying, both Ulsterman Laverty and Australian team mate Broc Parkes struggled aboard the Rapid Solicitors and Silkolene-backed PBM machines to end up on row seven of the grid with ex British Supersport champion Laverty in 20th place and team mate and double World Supersport runner-up Parkes one place further back in 21st for the Cumbrian based team.
In the race, Laverty, aboard the Rapid Solicitors and Silkolene-backed Aprilia ART-powered PBM, made a brilliant start to run as high as 17th in the early stages as Parkes struggled a bit further down the order.
As the race progressed, Laverty was embroiled in a battle for 17th place as Parkes climbed the order to run in 18th where he was to remain for the remainder of the race. Laverty, meanwhile, battled with a number of other Open class machines before climbing to 16th place on the final lap to miss out on a vital point once more.
It was the fourth time in five races this season that Laverty had finished in 16th place and apart from a technical problem in Austin; Parkes has finished every race also.
With nine finishes out of the ten races completed so far and knocking on the door of the points at all four meetings, the PBM team is making significant development progress which will continue into the next round of the season at Mugello in Italy in two weeks time.
The results mean that Parkes holds 21st overall in the 2014 MotoGP World Championship table following his ride into the points in Qatar, ninth in the Open class standings and third in Rookie of the Year. With a hat-trick of 16th place finishes and an 18th also, Laverty has yet to register on the scoreboard but importantly for the PBM team, they occupy seventh place in the manufacturer's table and 13th in the team's standings going into the next race at Jerez.
Michael Laverty: "I can't believe I've finished in 16th place again! For the fourth time in five races we have finished just one position back from scoring points. They will come for sure, the team are doing a good job and I feel I am riding well at the moment. We need to find some speed to try and bridge the gap to Aoyama and Abraham but hopefully we can do that as the PBM machine has taken some good steps forward this year we just need to find another step now."
Broc Parkes: "I had a lot of problems this weekend with just a lot of silly things so lost a lot of valuable track time. At the end of warm up my number one bike which I had ridden all weekend had a problem with the engine so I had to start on the second bike and it just didn't feel as good from the start. I felt I had good pace in practice and an overall better understanding of the bike a lot more. I again struggled a lot with rear grip so lost some time in the last part of the race."
Phil Borley, Technical Director: "We are reasonably satisfied with the results at Le Mans, as we believe we have improved our performance, although it is difficult to be sure as it is the first dry race PBM have had here. Michael had a good and consistent pace but was not rewarded with any points due to his fourth 16th position finish this year, whilst Broc had a good pace early in the race but could not maintain it. We are confident that we can improve both the performance and setting of our bikes with new parts planned for the next races and hope to further reduce the gap to our competitors."
Image courtesy of Gold & Goose: Michael Laverty in action in Le Mans