Leon Haslam

Steve English Suzuka 8 Hours Blog: The Best Team Won, But Was That The Right Result?

The 2019 Suzuka 8 Hours was the greatest race I’ve witnessed in the flesh. It was tremendous from start to finish...it was just the extra time that left a bitter aftertaste.

With only one lap remaining we had witnessed the greatest spectacle imaginable. Three teams - Kawasaki, Yamaha and Honda - had treated us to a feast of great racing. With the eight hour mark in sight we had seen twenty lead changes, and up until the final half hour all three teams were within 30 seconds of each other. Suzuka is always reckoned to be a series of sprint races wrapped up as an endurance outing but this race truly was just that.

It was unbelievable. Standing trackside I just wanted to get back inside to watch it on the TV and fully understand what was happening. If you believe that you’d believe anything. I was sweating so much in the heat that I was running dangerously low of bodily fluids but even in that state of reduced mental capacity I could see this was an all-time classic.

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Leon Haslam Interview: The Moving Goalposts Of Racing

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

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2019 WorldSBK Testing Round Up: Panigale A Work In Progress, Rea Dominant, Lowes One To Watch

Testing paints a picture but it’s never a complete one. It shows only what the artist wants you to see with their work in progress. The winter is a time to work through your program and do it at your own pace. This year that has been even more the case. With new bikes for Ducati and BMW there is plenty of change in the air of the World Superbike paddock, and after eight days of testing there are arguably more questions than answers.

The Ducati V4R was billed as the weapon to finally end Jonathan Rea’s dominance of WorldSBK. It was a MotoGP-derived bike that didn’t pull punches. It was one that broke cover over 12 months before its competitive debut. It was expected to be a honed creation from the outset. It was expected to be seamless. But instead, Ducati’s introduction of their new machine has run aground this winter.

Circumstances have worked against Ducati. Four days of testing in November were ruined by bad weather in Aragon, and then a bad track surface at Jerez that would need to be replaced. With a brand new surface at Jerez, it was dirty for the opening test of 2019. It took time to clean and it was almost impossible for riders to do long distance stints without excessive tire wear. Coming to Portimao it was hoped that Ducati could get some information on the new bike.

Hampering progress

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Kawasaki Press Release: Leon Haslam Confirmed As Jonathan Rea's Teammate In WorldSBK

The Kawasaki Racing Team issued the following press release confirming that Leon Haslam will partner Jonathan Rea in 2019 in the KRT WorldSBK team:


Haslam To Join KRT In 2019

Experienced British competitor Leon Haslam will join Jonathan Rea in KRT to complete the rider line up of Kawasaki’s official squad in the 2019 WorldSBK Championship.

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2018 Laguna Seca World Superbike Notes: What We Learned At Laguna

The US Round of the 2018 WorldSBK season highlighted once again the importance of hard work in motorcycle racing. Last year it was hard to imagine Milwaukee Aprilia standing on the podium on merit; on Sunday Eugene Laverty made his long awaited return to the rostrum. We have seen in recent rounds Yamaha win three races with the R1, but last weekend's races arguably did more to prove the potential of the bike.

Aprilia back in the hunt

After a four-year wait Eugene Laverty finally managed to scratch an itch, and spray some prosecco. The Irishman has been a title contender in the past, though he has suffered from poor machinery in recent years, but the hard work of the Shaun Muir Racing outfit paid off with a superb weekend. Laverty was on the pace throughout and looked very comfortable from FP1 as he finally converted potential into points. His 2018 season will always be punctuated by his crash in Thailand, but it now appears to be a pause rather than a full stop on his aspirations.

Yamaha making strides

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