Lowes keeps pil­ing on points

DON­ING­TON STUN­NER BSB star stuns World Su­per­bike pad­dock with race one podium

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week - OLI RUSHBY BSB RE­PORTER oli.rushby@mo­tor­cy­cle­news.com

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

Leon is al­ready in talks to re­turn to WSB with Puc­cetti Kawasaki

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