Haslam on the back foot
It may have been a dream start to the 2017 MCE British Superbike season for the JG Speedfit Kawasaki team with Leon Haslam and Luke Mossey sharing the first four victories of the year, but in recent races the wheels seem to have fallen off at the Bournemouth Kawasaki team.
The previous round at Snetterton marked the first two races of the year in which a JG Speedfit Kawasaki didn’t finish on the podium, and that would also have been the case at Brands Hatch this weekend had Haslam not nicked a determined third place in the opening race.
So what’s gone wrong for the Jack Valentine-managed outfit? Obviously Haslam’s Knockhill crash and subsequent injury didn’t help, but a severe lack of testing has hampered the 2016 runner-up. And it’s not for lack of trying, the team have tested at Snetterton and Cadwell in the past two months, but Haslam was sidelined at both with technical issues.
After missing Knockhill and riding with a neck injury at Snetterton, the squad have given their rivals a bit of breathing space.
“I’ve not ridden properly since Oulton,” Haslam said after race two. “I’ve missed all the tests with problems and was injured at Knockhill and Snetterton, so we’ve been regrouping this weekend.
“Of course, this isn’t where we want to be, we want to be challenging Shakey, but we also need to prepare for the Showdown and get back to a bike we’re happy with.
“We had no choice but to try to use this weekend to get a better direction with the bike and learn a bit more. It’s the first time we’ve run the softer rear tyre all year and it worked really well, but in doing that we’ve compromised other areas so need to go testing, really!
“I don’t think people realise just how much you can do in a test day compared to a race weekend. One day with no issues is like half-a-season of racing. To try and test in 45-minute sessions is pretty much impossible.”
While team-mate Mossey has enjoyed more testing time than Haslam, the young gun has experienced severe brake fade in three consecutive races, two at Snetterton and then in the first race at Brands Hatch while fighting for the lead. The team had been unable to find a reason for the mysterious recurring issues but they were finally resolved for Sunday’s second race when Mossey finished fifth.
Mossey is now 29 points behind Byrne in the title race with Haslam a further two points back, but more crucially the Ducati man is now 10 points ahead of Haslam in podium credits.
While there’s still time to turn things around, it needs to happen soon with Byrne in dominant form. Haslam now heads straight to Suzuka for the 8-Hour next weekend, but will be back in the UK as soon as possible for an eleventh-hour test at Cadwell Park.
‘We want to be challenging Shakey, preparing for the Showdown’ LEON HASLAM
Haslam wants to be closer to Byrne
Haslam (91) salvaged a thirdplace finish at Brands