JG Speed­fit Kawasaki Leon Haslam

Performance Bikes (UK) - - 2018 Contenders - The Kawasaki rider is one of the only men who can piss on Shakey’s chips

E IGHTY FOUR VIC­TO­RIES. 186 podium fin­ishes. Six British ti­tles. Shane Byrne is un­doubt­edly the man to beat when it comes to the British Su­per­bike cham­pi­onship. But the 41-year-old hasn’t had it easy. Those stats haven’t come his way through seem­ingly ef­fort­less dom­i­na­tion; in re­cent years, ev­ery crown has been the re­sult of a gloves-off, tan­ta­lis­ing scrap with some of the world’s best Su­per­bike rid­ers.

The big­gest thorn in Byrne’s side in the last two years has been Leon Haslam, a man who re­turned to BSB from World Su­per­bikes in 2016, hav­ing beaten the likes

of Jonathan Rea and Chaz Davies in the final race of the 2015 WSB sea­son.

Run­ner-up to Max Bi­aggi in the fight for the world crown in 2010, Haslam is no slouch, and he’s proven to be a per­sis­tent pain for Byrne over the last two sea­sons. In 2016, he pushed the Du­cati man all the way to the wire, and last year it looked like he’d got the bet­ter of him un­til a num­ber of is­sues at the final round saw Byrne triumph against ad­ver­sity to whit­tle down Haslam’s 33-point lead.

“Leon is like a lit­tle ter­rier who never stops go­ing at you,” Byrne ex­plains. “He hurt him­self quite badly at the end of last year and within weeks he was back on a bike and test­ing, which I was quite im­pressed with as that was no small in­jury.

“You watch and you see that he spends all win­ter riding mo­tor­bikes, and I re­ally, re­ally re­spect him for that. He just doesn’t stop, he goes and goes and goes and that makes him a re­ally hard op­po­nent. We have very dif­fer­ent ap­proaches; he’s been riding all win­ter and I didn’t ride a bike be­tween the last round at Brands and my first test of this year at Carta­gena! For me, that means I come back to riding des­per­ate to race my bike again. I guess it’s hard to say which approach is the right one, maybe there’s a mid­dle ground... but ul­ti­mately, we won the same num­ber of races last year and had the same num­ber of DNFs. I only won be­cause I stayed on when I needed to...

“Leon’s big­gest strength has to be bike fit­ness from all that riding, and head­ing into the year on the same bike again puts him in a strong po­si­tion. He’s well in with Kawasaki, he gets to ride the World Su­per­bike ev­ery now and again, and his pack­age will be good. He knows the tracks well, and he’s Leon Haslam, isn’t he? He’s prob­a­bly got more ex­pe­ri­ence than any­body: he’s raced 500 GPs, MotoGP, 125cc, 250cc, WSB, BSB... you name it, he’s done it!

“He has his dad there with him at ev­ery round and Ron is ob­vi­ously a leg­end who knows bikes in­side out. That’s got to be a good thing. If Ron Haslam went out and watched me and came back and told me what I was do­ing wrong, I’d cer­tainly lis­ten!”

De­spite all that, Haslam has be­come some­what of a peren­nial brides­maid dur­ing his rac­ing ca­reer. He hasn’t won a cham­pi­onship since his days rac­ing scoot­ers, and he’s picked up the BSB run­ner-up tro­phy no fewer than three times.

“He is prone to the odd mis­take,” Byrne con­tin­ues. “You’ll see him on track some­times and he’ll have a lunge at some­one while he’s one per­son in front of you, and you’ll close your eyes and wait for the col­li­sion! He tends to pull it off and you find your­self won­der­ing how on Earth he man­aged to brake that late and still make the cor­ner. Fair play to him, though; I couldn’t even at­tempt that on my bike.

“But some­times he’ll do that with­out even try­ing to pass some­one and push him­self wide, so you can cap­i­talise on that. I guess he rides a lit­tle bit too much with his heart on his sleeve; he rides at 11 tenths when 10.5 might be enough, and that’s when you start to see the mis­takes.”

Haslam has been get­ting back on the pace at Mon­te­blanco

Leon booked him­self some recovery time af­ter a 170mph brake fail­ure-in­duced get-off at Brands last year

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.