LEON LEADS THE WAY
Tyre gamble pays off as Haslam takes Oulton triple and tops BSB title table
Leon Haslam turned the fight for the 2016 MCE British Superbike title on its head at Oulton Park as he moved into the series lead with a dominant trio of wins at the Cheshire circuit.
After losing vital points to title rival Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne mid-season, it had looked as though Haslam could struggle to take the fight to the fourtime British champion. However, a remarkable turnaround for the JG Speedfit Kawasaki team over the last two rounds has seen former WSB runner-up, Haslam win four of the last five races to take the championship lead for the three-round title fight.
Having battled with tyre life on the softer option Pirelli rear for much of this season, Haslam made the bold move to race on the harder SC1 tyre in all three races, despite rising track temperatures across the weekend. Defying a visible lack of grip in the early stages, he was able to match his rivals’ pace before taking the lead and building a gap with his longer-lasting rubber.
“We took a bit of a gamble with the harder tyre, which made things hard work for us as we had much less grip at the start but it paid off in the end,” he told MCN after the race.
“We’d used the hard in pre-season testing and we were quick, we used it at Silverstone too but with the higher temperatures as we came into summer we opted to work on the soft but we’ve struggled to make that last. With hindsight, maybe we should have tried the hard at some other rounds as it seems I can be as fast on the hard as others are on the soft.”
Haslam’s return to form couldn’t have come at a better time as Byrne endured a nightmare weekend aboard the Be Wiser Ducati to leave the Cheshire track with just a handful of points after a number of uncharacteristic mistakes.
“I don’t know what’s been up with Shakey this weekend, maybe this circuit doesn’t suit him and the bike or maybe he’s just been trying too hard. That being said, there’s no doubt he’ll be up there for the final three rounds. The Ducati has been the package to
‘If I have a bike that’s fast for the last five laps I know I can beat Shakey in a battle’ LEON HASLAM
beat this year but I’m looking forward to the battle.”
While Haslam may have the upper hand, he sits just three points ahead of Byrne leaving no room for error as the 2016 Showdown gets underway at Donington Park this weekend.
“Going into the Showdown on top means everything to me and the good thing is I’m a rider who thrives under pressure. I’m not really a crasher and when things are good I’m consistent and can manage the aggression – something we’ve seen some others aren’t so good at this weekend as they’ve scrapped to get in the Showdown!
“We just need to make sure we can maximise our package; our bike is really good at getting stopped on the brakes so we need to use that to our advantage while getting on top of the tyre life issues. If I have a bike that’s fast for the last five laps I know I can beat Shakey when it comes down to a battle.”
Leg-dangling Leon on his way to the title lead at Oulton Park
Haslam was well rewarded for choosing the harder tyre