Haslam goes big
Gutsy Brit rushed to medical centre and put on a drip after super-human five-hour stint
Leon on drip after Suzuka 8-Hour
Leon Haslam took a stunning podium finish for the factory-backed Team Green Kawasaki squad at this year’s Suzuka 8-Hour, after doing the lion’s share of the work for the three-man squad only a month after suffering a broken back at the Knockhill round of BSB.
Riding alongside team-mates Kazuma Watanabe and Azlan Shah Bin Kamaruzaman on the ZX-10R, Haslam’s pace during qualifying dictated an unusual strategy for the race that saw the Malaysian rider sitting out the entire race and Haslam doubling up on his time on the bike.
Completing five of the eight hours of the race, in 35 degree temeperatures with 77% humidity, he ended it with a double stint on the bike, pitting with an hour to go only for fuel and new tyres and not switching riders. Such was the exertion that he was forced to miss the post-race press conference, instead heading directly from the podium to the medical centre to be placed on a rehydrating drip.
Speaking exclusively to MCN after the race, the double Suzuka winner admitted that this year’s cooler conditions should have helped. But when riding double shifts, it’s still an incredibly draining test of physical endurance.
“I wasn’t dizzy or fatigued in any way, but I was cramping up on the bike. Every year I’ve done it, I get cramp when I stop, but when you’re doing five stints and one back to back it happens on the bike, too. Even my stomach muscles and my throat were cramping up, and it was nice to get a drip and some medicine after the race.
“It wasn’t the hottest race, and I’ve had harder individual stints before, but five of them is tough. We hadn’t done any more than 15-lap runs until that point, and in the first session in the race I did over 30. I’ve never really suffered on the bike before, but the one hour rest I got didn’t feel like an hour with all the little issues I picked up.”
However, Haslam did manage to escape a little pressure in the closing stages of the race when it looked like he would have to go up against Randy de Puniet on the FCC TSR Honda to battle for second place. Coming the equiva- lent of nine BSB races into the contest for Haslam, he admitted that he was relieved when a mechanical problem gave him a little breathing room with only 30 minutes to go.
“I’d just got on the back of Randy when the safety car came out, after bridging a 10-second gap to him, and knew I had to beat him – and then, just as the pace car was due to pull off, there were massive flames shooting out of the back of his bike!
“I figured it was oil or petrol so I held back a bit, but he kept going. He got black-flagged in the end, though, which was good, because I didn’t know whether to hold back or try to pass him.
“We were then able to come home in a respectable second place; and I don’t think we could have asked for more.
“Yamaha werr able to set a better pace than us and Alex breaking the lap record was impressive. At best we could have been within half-a-second of that lap. I think we’re pushing our bike to the limit but we’ve finished second to them twice. Hopefully we can make some steps and get closer to them next year.”
‘Even my stomach muscles and my throat were cramping up’ LEON HASLAM ‘My first individual stint in the race was more than 30 laps – it was tough’ LEON HASLAM