Leon Haslam explains his decision to switch from World Superbikes to the British series, working with JG Speedfit Kawasaki and why he's inviting on more pressure in 2016

Crash.net:
Fresh off the back of winter testing in Spain with the new team how have you found life adapting to JG Speedfit Kawasaki and the new ZX-10R?

Leon Haslam:
It has been really good. For me it has been probably the longest period off of a superbike, from winning in Qatar up until the Jerez test which was last week of January, I hadn't done anything on a bike. It was a long winter waiting on Aprilia to make their decision and to take on the challenge in BSB with GBmoto.

It all happened quite late but once it was confirmed Christmas was already on top of us. I'd been training out in Spain with Sam Lowes then pretty much straight into testing so it all feels one after another but as we aren't racing until April so I feel pretty good. It is nice not to have a winter recovering from injuries or operations so it is quite positive.

Crash.net:
As you said the deal with the team came about pretty late, how did it all come about?

Leon Haslam:
Over the last few years I've been in communication with Mark [Smith-Halvorsen, GBmoto team boss] who has shown an interest in me as a lot of teams have done. It was me who approached Mark this year, he had already got his plans together, so I said to him maybe in a month I might be available. That was late November. I told him my other options in World Superbikes were less appealing so he showed an interest again and in that month we worked together and with the BSB organisers to give us an opportunity to make it work.

I gave Aprilia the time they needed and then when they announced to me that they were not going to run as a factory effort and were looking to sell on what they had to another team it made my mind up quite easily. To be involved with a team that the bookies' are saying should win it is the first time in my career I've ever had that so it is super exciting.

Crash.net:
How has it been getting to know your team and gelling with them in the tests?

Leon Haslam:
As I was a late entry there was still a few things that needed sorting out so I was still on a mix of 2015 and 2016 stuff at the tests and the full team is still coming together. Getting used to the new Kawasaki was my first hurdle and getting used to no electronics was another thing I wasn't used to. I am super excited about it and working with James Ellison who was a proven winner last year and listening to where he is at with it and his comments. I feel we are making really good progress with it all.

Crash.net:
Have you had to change your riding style at all with the Kawasaki or make any other adjustments?

Leon Haslam:
The biggest thing so far is not having the electronic aids; traction control, anti-wheelie and engine braking. It is more down to the rider now without those aids so I have been able to concentrate on my bike set-up and concentrate on myself. It has taken a bit of getting used to but at the same time it has been quite exciting and fun. With the Kawasaki we haven't even scratched the surface with it yet and the potential is absolutely massive with it. Already we are as quick as we've ever been at some circuits even with a pretty standard machine with no electronics.

Crash.net:
Heading back into BSB there are a few familiar rivals and some new ones, what are you expecting in 2016?

Leon Haslam:
It has been seven years since I've been in BSB so obviously there would be some new faces and some old ones like Shakey who I've raced before, Ellison my team-mate as well, Laverty and Hopkins are a world-class riders. There are a lot of proven winners on good machines. All the mixers are there and all the top names on very fast machines.

Then there are the younger ones also on good machinery. My biggest challenge in BSB will be to get back on some of the British circuits but with the opening round at Silverstone hopefully we can hit the ground running and see how we get on.

Crash.net:
You've already said the team is one of the favourites for the title this year so what targets are you setting yourself?

Leon Haslam:
For me it is about maximising my package and always to win. I want to win as many as possible and win the championship that is my goal. The last few years with the BMWs, Ten Kate Honda team, the Aprilia was a little bit different, but, the bike and package I've had has never been a favourite to win every weekend so maybe sometimes we've had to settle for a fifth or a sixth and aim to get the most out of it. I believe this year there shouldn't be an occasion where the package isn't capable of winning so it is up to me and the team to maximise it and hopefully get the ultimate reward which is the top step of the podium.

Crash.net:
Certainly, so in that sense is there any new or extra pressure this season?

Leon Haslam:
I think there is even more pressure this year. I was speaking to Jonathan Rea and he told me he wouldn't do what I have done and told me I'm super brave because he knows how strong the British championship is and how competitive it is. So to go back there the pressure is definitely on me and to take on that pressure is a big thing but I'm inviting that pressure on and I can't wait. To know that I can go out there, perform and win is something I've missed for a while so I'm looking forward to it.

Crash.net:
Fantastic, moving on to World Superbikes for a moment is there any chance of a few wildcard outings this season with JG Speedfit Kawasaki?

Leon Haslam:
I'd love to do that. Donington Park and Assen are two rounds which don't clash with BSB and are also two rounds which are in the Showdown for the British championship. I've made it quite clear I would like to do that but there is a big difference in rules and regulations. If I do it I'd like to be competitive and get the same materials as the guys at the world level. At the same time logistically trying to fight it in take time. I'd still love to do it even if it just my home round Donington.

Crash.net:
The last time Crash spoke to Mark Smith-Halvorsen he expressed a long term vision as well as a short term plan. Have you discussed that with him and are you looking beyond 2016?

Leon Haslam:
For me it is year-by-year. Like I said, I could have stayed in the worlds and gone with a team who would've been sixth or seventh which for those teams would have been good but my position and the point I am at in my career I want to win. The winning package was GBmoto in BSB. If that then presents an opportunity at winning at WSBK in the future then that is the main reason for it. For now my aim is to maximise my opportunity with GBmoto and try to win BSB and see what happens from there.

Crash.net:
One last one, after the World Superbike entry list was released we saw the Aprilia bikes taken up by former MotoGP squad IodaRacing. Can I grab your thoughts on how you see that going as you've had the experience on that bike.

Leon Haslam:
The Aprilia bike is still a very, very strong package and all honesty if Aprilia wanted to continue themselves I believe it could have been challenging for top three every weekend as a package. But now what they're doing with Ioda is not a factory effort, they are just giving them the materials and Ioda will run the bikes. I think for them it will be very tough to challenge for the world championship even though the package as it was in Qatar was a winning bike. If they get it all together a maximise the package from last year I still think it is capable of podiums but it won't challenge for championships against the likes of Kawasaki and Ducati.