Leon Camier tore up the record books with his outstanding run to British Superbike Championship (BSB) title glory in 2009 – but the Airwaves Yamaha star has confessed that prior to the beginning of the campaign, he didn't think the team would be anywhere near the front-runners at all.
Camier and GSE Racing headed to the curtain-raising meeting around Brands Hatch's Indy circuit with precisely no prior testing under their belts, due to the late delivery of the team's Yamaha YZF-R1s – after switching manufacturers from Ducati in 2008 – and with little real hope of anything in the way of good results. He left again with a victory and fourth place to his name and sitting second in the riders' standings.
“If GSE had stayed with Ducati for this year, I would have expected it to be more likely that we could win the championship,” he told Crash.net Radio
, “and initially I was a little bit disappointed with the change to Yamaha, because I thought 'we've got another whole year of learning as we don't know the bike'.
“Then there were all the things that happened at the beginning of the year when the team didn't get the bikes until just before the first race due to building them and getting parts for them – at the start of the season we didn't expect to do anything at all with no testing – but we went to the first race and still managed to get a win. It was absolutely awesome, to be honest; we could never have expected anything like this at all.”
Indeed, the 23-year-old may have left Brands sitting second in the title chase, but he wouldn't remain there for very long, and over the course of his record-breaking BSB season he triumphed on a staggering 19 occasions from 26 starts. To put such incredible dominance into perspective, team-mate James Ellison reached the top step of the podium in just four races in comparison, and took the chequered flag ahead of Camier only four times too – and from the first outing at Thruxton to the second encounter at Knockhill mid-season, nobody would beat the Ashford ace at all.
“I couldn't have asked for much more!” he acknowledged. “It's been awesome – from the time we jumped on the bike everything just fell into place and we were fast from the start, and to come from the bad situation to start with and do what we did is even more phenomenal. It's been a dream season, and it would be nice to carry on from where we left off, but having said that it's nearly an impossible feat really.
“I'd say Brands Hatch was the biggest highlight; we had the Kawasaki World Superbike team over on a wild card entry and it was my local race, but we had a lot of problems all throughout the weekend. I did hardly any laps in practice or qualifying, and we still managed to get all three wins – the first-ever 'triple', and I think I scored (team principal) Colin Wright's 100th win there and we took over the [record for the] most wins ever in a season. That was probably the highest point of the season, but winning the championship was also amazing. Now I'm just going to carry on what I've learned from this year and hopefully continue.”
That, of course, he will do with Aprilia in the World Superbike Championship (WSBK) next year, following his impressive outings for the Italian squad at Magny-Cours and in particular Portimao at the end of the campaign – but whether GSE will be able to continue themselves in BSB in 2010, following the departure of chief backer Airwaves, remains unclear.
“I'm not sure what the situation is at the minute, to be honest,” Camier mused. “I've spoken to Colin a few times, and I think they're still trying to find a title sponsor – if they don't find one then obviously they won't run. It's a shame to lose Airwaves; they've been so dominant as a sponsor for years and a massive presence in the paddock, so it's disappointing that they're going – but things happen and everything will move on.”
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