Lowes keeps piling on points
DONINGTON STUNNER BSB star stuns World Superbike paddock with race one podium
Leon Haslam reignited his world championship aspirations with a stunning podium at Donington Park onboard the Puccetti Kawasaki.
Making a one-off appearance for the Italian team with whom he tested at Portimao earlier this year, Haslam was on the pace throughout the weekend. Not even a crash in qualifying that left him eighth on the grid for race one was enough to slow him down. The 33-year-old was soon fighting at the front before benefitting from the crashes of Chaz Davies and Jonathan Rea to eventually finish the race in second.
With the days of fast local wildcards mixing it with the big boys in WSB supposedly a thing of the past, Haslam’s performance created a serious buzz all weekend. The last official wildcard podium was only back in 2015, when double World Champion Max Biaggi raced on a full factory Aprilia. A British wildcard hasn’t finished on the WSB rostrum since Haslam himself claimed third in the second race at Portimao in 2008 when wildcarding with his HM Plant Honda BSB team.
“It’s a dream come true, really,” said Haslam, who was knocked out of the second race in a big battle for the rostrum positions in the early stages. “It’s been a steep learning curve but I can’t not be happy. I thought if I had a perfect weekend, I could maybe beat the Ducatis to take third. But I knew we’d struggle to beat Johnny and Tom.”
Haslam’s performance is sure to do no harm to his chances of securing a return to the World Superbike scene full-time in 2018, and MCN can confirm Manuel Puccetti is already pushing for Haslam’s signature (see story, right).
“Racing is a fickle game,” Haslam continued. “You’re only as good as your last result and my last few results in WSB have been pretty good considering I won my last race in 2015, finished fifth on the Pedercini bike last year in Qatar and now this.
“I knew I was capable of riding with the best. I didn’t leave WSB because I was slow, I left because there was no opportunity that would enable me to challenge for wins and the title.
“I’ve had options in WSB every year since I left. I could have stayed with a lesser team instead of coming back to BSB, I could have come back this year but for me it’s about what the overall package is. Right now my job is to win the British title for Kawasaki.”
Puccetti had pushed hard to secure Haslam for 2017, but this wildcard opportunity was the perfect chance to try before he potentially signs.
“I could have signed with them this year, but they were an unknown quantity in WSB. So to test with them in WSB and then ride for them here, I’ve been able to see what they are capable of, what I need from a bike and from a team to be able to challenge. It’s their first year in the superbike class and they’ve shown me that they are a team to be reckoned with.
“Nothing has been sorted, my focus right now is BSB. We’ve had several meetings, it all comes down to budget and support and putting it all together.”
‘I knew I could run with the best, I didn’t leave WSB because I was slow’ LEON HASLAM