HASLAM TO BOURNEMOUTH KAWASAKI
Deal with Kawasaki UK places Haslam alongside Mossey in Bournemouth Kawasaki squad
For 2017 Leon Haslam will join the Bournemouth Kawasaki team after signing a deal with Kawasaki UK to remain in the MCE British Superbike Championship.
Despite coming close to beating Shane Byrne to the title this year, Haslam was left in a tricky situation as his JG Speedfit Gbmoto Kawasaki team opted to pull the plug on their British Superbike effort at the end of the 2016 season.
Keen to keep Haslam on a ZX-10R after a strong year, Kawasaki UK put together a deal for him to sign directly with them and be placed in a team of their choice, which MCN can now confirm is Pete Extance’s Bournemouth Kawasaki squad.
“With Mark [Smith-halvorsen] and Gbmoto pulling out, I didn’t actually have an option to stay with Kawasaki as the end of the season approached,” Haslam explained. “However, Kawasaki UK decided to step in and offer me a contract, even though at that point they didn’t have a team to put me in!
“For them to have that much faith in me and want me on a Kawasaki that much for 2017 is humbling. Since the original deal was signed, we’ve now reached an agreement to ride with the Bournemouth team.”
After coming so close to the title this year, Haslam told MCN back in September that staying with Kawasaki was his main objective for 2017 as he felt they’d only just scratched the surface of the ZX-10R’S potential in BSB.
“Staying on the same bike was key for me after this year. It’s been a big one! Coming back to BSB was a massive learning curve, I’ve had to learn a lot of tracks again and get used to a bike without electronics.
“In 2017, I can go into the season knowing what to expect from the bike, get the benefits from a full winter testing programme and also have a structure I want around me – this year was tough, with a three rider team. 2016 was good for us, but I’ve said all along that there’s a lot more to come.”
Moving from the all-singing, alldancing Gbmoto team to the both quieter and smaller Bournemouth outfit isn’t something that fazes Haslam, who has had multiple sit-down meetings with team boss Pete Extance.
Haslam said: “Pete’s really enthusiastic about it all, which is something I like. They started off small and have just built up and up and up, so they’re really excited about this next step. When you’ve got a team boss who is like that it rubs off and boosts everyone else in the team. You need that passion and excitement to succeed.”
Kawasaki UK’S racing coordinator Ross Burridge said: “We came close to losing Leon to another manufacturer as, with the withdrawal of Gbmoto, there wasn’t really a Kawasaki option for him, so we decided the best thing we could do was to sign him up to be employed by Kawasaki.
“This year, he was the only rider to take it to Shakey and I think if it hadn’t been his first year back in BSB he could have been even closer or even won it. Nine race wins is an awesome job and it shows what he’s capable of.
“Bournemouth are a great team. For a small, family-run team they do a fantastic job year in year out. They are always there, they’ve had riders in the Showdown twice in the last three years and do a great job on the roads with James Hillier, too.”
Kawasaki were so keen to keep Haslam on a ZX-10R, they signed him up directly