HASLAM KING OF THE MOUNTAIN
Cadwell Park fightback sees Haslam close in on Byrne’s lead to keep championship alive
Leon Haslam brought an end to Shane Byrne’s domination with a commanding victory in Monday’s second MCE British Superbike race at Cadwell Park.
Having taken four wins out of six races in the run up to Cadwell, Byrne was starting to establish himself as a clear favourite in the 2016 title race, but a fightback from Haslam at the Lincolnshire track issued a stark reminder that the fight is far from over.
It didn’t all go Haslam’s way, however, with Byrne stealing the first race victory from the JG Speedfit Kawasaki rider with a clever move at the fast Chris Curve on the final lap. Struggling with tyre wear towards the end, Haslam had no answer for his Ducati rival.
“The first race was so frustrating,” Haslam said. “I felt we were riding hard but I didn’t have anything left with the tyre and where he passed me it was purely on acceleration and with it being on the last lap I just didn’t have any chance to fight back. I felt really good when I reeled Shakey back in earlier in the race, but maybe I should have done it over a few more laps instead of two! If the tyre had lasted three or four more laps I’d have been alright.”
For race two Haslam made key changes in a bid to extend the life of his rear Pirelli including tyre pressure and shock settings. It left the 33-yearold confident he could beat Shakey, but he was also aided by an early safety car deployment following an incident involving Howie Mainwaring and Filip Backlund on the first lap.
“Usually the safety car makes tyre wear worse as the tyres cool down a lot, but with it being early in the race it probably helped us a bit. I definitely planned the race a bit better as I didn’t have to push as hard at the beginning and was then able to slow the pace when I was in the lead,” said Haslam.
Not only was Cadwell an important weekend for Haslam in terms of results, but he feels he learned a valuable lesson in deciding which direction they need to take with the ZX-10R to challenge Byrne for the championship over the final four rounds.
“We’ve been up against the Ducati for the last few rounds so to leave here on top it fires us all back up going into the last few weekends. If we can battle with Shakey I can beat him, but we need to make sure we have the tyre and the bike to do that at the end of the race. Tyre wear is something we need to work on as it seems the Ducati is very good at looking after the softer tyre.
“I need to go to the next round at Oulton Park and win three races in order to reduce the gap in podium points. We know how strong the Ducati is and that’s showed this weekend as Shakey hadn’t won here for 13 years, but both him and Irwin were strong.”
It was also a positive weekend for Haslam’s team-mates, with a sixth and eighth place good enough to see James Ellison move back into showdown contention while Peter Hickman moved a step closer to the top six with a strong fourth in the second race.
‘I need to go to the next round at Oulton and win three races’ LEON HASLAM
Haslam turned the tables on Shakey to take race two