Having won his first major title Leon Haslam is off to pastures new, and his is not the only change in British Superbike…
All change on the British Superbike front, and some good news.
IT FEELS LIKE THE CHANGING of the guard at British Superbike. Leon Haslam duly won his first major title at the final round, a mere 21 years after winning the British Gilera Scooter Championship and gets the prize of a season with the factory Kawasaki World Superbike Championship team next season – as Jonny Rea’s team mate. That should be fun. It’s worth noting that it was the factory back in Japan who pushed this through. The team were keen on Turkish wonder kid Toprak Razgatlioglu but will have to wait another year. Think of Leon’s 2019 season back on the world stage, where he finished runner-up in 2010, as a reward for his heroic performances at the Suzuka 8 Hours. All he has to do to get a second year is beat Jonny Rea! And it’s not just the champion who is leaving the BSB paddock. Jake Dixon, second this year, is off to Grand Prix to ride Moto2 for Aspar. Third and fourth-place finishers Glen Irwin and Josh Brookes, are moving teams leaving fifth and sixth-placed Peter Hickman and Bradley Ray as the only Title Fighters from this year’s Showdown to go into 2019 with the same team and bike as they finished 2018. And there is one great unknown, Shakey Byrne. The six-times champion will know any time now if there’s any chance of him making a comeback, which isn’t the same thing as actually making a comeback. He has made a stunning recovery from the multiple injuries sustained in a testing crash at Snetterton early in the season but the medics still have to give the all clear, and the likelihood is that there will be considerably more recovery time. As usual there is precious little sentiment involved in racing, so the PBM team have replaced Shakey with Motogp man Scott Redding. Assuming the V4 Ducati is sorted, that should be a very interesting combination. Just to add a bit of spice to the mix, the Moto Rapido Ducati team and Shakey had an entertaining exchange on Twitter about joining forces next season. Don’t write that off as mere stirring, any racer forced to retire through injury has trouble dealing with it, champions like Byrne more so. They’ll go through physiotherapy hell to
get back to competition but once they’ve proved to themselves that they can still win, they find it easier to hang up the leathers. Either way, he will still be in the paddock because if he’s not riding Shakey will surely continue with his perceptive analysis on Eurosport TV.