Leon Haslam is a British Superbike champion, a two time Suzuka 8 Hours winner and a WorldSBK race winner. He's 35 years old but he's still learning lessons all the time
Returning to the WorldSBK championship isn't easy. The riders, the bikes and the tracks might stay the same, more or less, but the requirements change with every year. More is expected. If you stay the same you move backwards.
After three years racing, and winning, in the British Superbike championship Haslam returned to the world stage for 2019. There was expectation on his shoulders but from the outset he was realistic; with Jonathan Rea as his teammate it would be a huge challenge. Rea has dominated the series over the last four years and Haslam spoke throughout the winter of challenging Rea rather than beating him from the outset.
Injuries haven't helped his cause - a pinched nerve in his back and old ankle worries have troubled him - but there have been signs that when the bike is working well for him, Haslam can be a podium contender.
"I'm not where I wanted to be but at the same time my initial aim was to be in the top five and challenge for podiums," said Haslam. "We didn't expect the dominance of the Ducati, so in my mind we're in that fight with the Yamahas for that third place right now. We achieved that in Australia. We battled for it in Aragon. I felt we should have been there in Assen but we had a little issue with the tyre. So we're close.
"Compared to Jonathan, in this first year, we've been a lot closer than I thought at some races. At other times we've been a little bit on the back foot. I've had a few injuries but we're not a million miles away. When we get it right we're battling with the current four times world champion until the last lap. I'm a little disappointed with our positions in a few races but in other races I've been surprised how close we have been."
Progress never stops