Haslam goes big

Gutsy Brit rushed to med­i­cal cen­tre and put on a drip after su­per-hu­man five-hour stint

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Sport - SIMON PAT­TER­SON AT SUZUKA simon.pat­ter­son@mo­tor­cy­cle­news.com @Mc­n­sport mo­tor­cy­cle­news

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

Haslam fires out of the pits after a quick fuel stop Blis­tered hands are a mea­sure of what Suzuka ex­acts from its com­peti­tors

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