HASLAM CUES UP ANOTHER SUZUKA 8 BALL
‘ To win the 8-Hour again for another factory would be a dream come true’ New Kawasaki BSB signing takes a step closer to another Suzuka 8-hour victory after getting official call up to the prestigious race
Two-time Suzuka 8-Hour race winner Leon Haslam will return to compete in the key World Endurance round in Japan this year, riding an official Team Green Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R.
Having signed to ride in the BSB championship this year with the official JG Speedfit Kawasaki squad, Haslam has also negotiated a return to the prestigious 8-Hour, having missed the opportunity while an Aprilia WSB rider last year.
Haslam, who makes no secret of his wish to compete in any other one-off or wild card rides for Kawasaki in 2016, considers being asked to represent his new manufacturer at Suzuka as an unmissable opportunity. “It is always an honour to be invited and to be invited by Kawasaki even more so,” said Haslam.
One of the reasons some other European-based riders have opted to miss the 8-Hour in recent times is the extensive 8-Hour test schedule, but it’s a prospect Haslam’s relishing: “We are going to be testing four times, not only at Suzuka but also at Kawasaki’s official test track in Autopolis, with the official Japanese Team Green squad. It is quite an in-depth test schedule that they have, so to be involved in that, and be
invited to do it, is a big honour. I have won the 8-Hour twice with Honda and I am the only British guy to ever do that, so to try and do it again with another manufacturer is a dream come true.”
Haslam will be teamed up with another WSB race-winning rider Akira Yanagawa, and established Kawasaki Japan rider Kazuki Watanabe, on an official bike running Bridgestone tyres.
Haslam has won WSB races as recently as the final round in Qatar last season, when competing for Aprilia, but his return to BSB has not dulled his desire for more international competition.
It was even part of his thinking as he took on his main ‘day-job’ of trying to win the BSB title in 2016.
“When I first spoke about coming back to BSB there were a lot of things discussed on the back of it,” he said. “Obviously, yes, I want to come back and win a British title for Kawasaki. But I wanted to be involved with the factory as much as I could as far as the 8-Hour was concerned, World Endurance and even as a stand-in or wild card rider. We are still making our mind up on how we can approach the wild card rides. For me, as long as I can be winning on a Kawasaki that is my first aim. Right now my main focus is in BSB and testing for the 8-Hour.”