CAN LEON BE KING OF BSB?
If bike racing is about pedigree then Leon Haslam has a massive jump on his 2016 MCE British Superbike rivals.
The 32-year-old is a member of a famous bike racing dynasty headed by his father, Ron, a former factory Grand Prix rider and multiple British champion. Haslam junior has won at World Superbike and British Superbike championship level, including finishing runner-up in the 2010 WSB series. But so far a major title has eluded him and he is returning to the BSB paddock as a member of the JG Speedfit Kawasaki squad after a seven-year absence.
Although Haslam has ridden for numerous manufacturers during his long career, this is his first time on a Kawasaki. With his JG Speedfit team-mates, James Ellison and Peter Hickman, still struggling to come to terms with the 2016 ZX-10R, Haslam appears to have taken to the bike like a duck to water.
At Cartagena in March he was third fastest in what was his first serious comparison with his 2016 rivals. At the opening domestic test at Silverstone,
JG SPEEDFIT KAWASAKI
Haslam topped the timesheets with a performance that is sure to have sparked fear amongst his opponents.
“It seems to all be going to plan, we want to keep pushing and improving but I am leaving the test really happy with how the JG Speedfit Kawasaki team have worked together here,” he said as he departed Silverstone.
“To come to Silverstone one week before the first race was a big test of where we are at in terms of our season preparations.”
Haslam’s progress is all the more remarkable given that he has had to adjust to a bike with no electronic rider aids for the first time.
“In my whole career I have been riding with electronics, even when I was in BSB it was full electronics,” he explains.
“To jump on a bike with no electronics, no traction control you have to ride differently and you do have to set the bike up differently. On top of that I am learning a brand new bike.”
Haslam has focused
Best result ground running last year and won the first round. We went to Brands for the second race, put it on pole and won both races. Mint. There was another podium at the next round and then I broke my wrist but when I came back I was fighting for wins.”
In spite of the pain he has suffered, Ellison says his injuries are more of an inconvenience than a demotivator.
“Once I am over an injury it doesn’t linger and it doesn’t affect how I approach the next race,” he says. “If anything it motivates me more. To go through all of that is painful and it takes a lot out of my family and me. I’ve spent the last two summers in hyperbaric chambers. Most people go on holiday for a break in summer, I’ve been stuck in a little metal chamber, getting physio and staring at x-rays. It is hard work and I don’t do that because I get paid to race motorbikes, I do it because I love racing motorbikes.”