Leon Haslam says he's fully embracing the weight of expectancy placed upon him since grabbing the headlines with a surprise return to the MCE British Superbike championship with JG Speedfit Kawasaki.
The 32-year-old became the centre of an 11th-hour move after his former World Superbike squad Aprilia informed him it would be pulling out its factory effort in 2016 to concentrate its efforts in MotoGP. In an exclusive interview with Crash.net
, Haslam says he hit a crossroads to either stay in WSBK on a less competitive package or return to BSB after seven years away.
Having been confirmed with the GBmoto-run JG Speedfit Kawasaki squad, Haslam has enjoyed initial pre-season tests as he adapts to the BSB regulations and the new ZX-10R. The Nottinghamshire rider, a two-time runner-up in BSB in 2006 and 2008, is relishing the opportunity of a new challenge and is happy to be considered a title favourite for what he believes is one of the first time in his career.
“I think there is even more pressure this year,” Haslam said to Crash.net
. “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 it 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.”
Haslam will be making his competitive debut on Kawasaki machinery in 2016 and after completing initial tests in Spain is confident the package has much more to produce. JG Speefit Kawasaki will be aiming to emulate Josh Brookes' feat from 12 months ago when he transformed the new Yamaha R1 from a stock machine into a title-winner.
“The biggest thing so far is not having the electronic aids; traction control, anti-wheelie and engine braking,” he explained. “It is more down to the rider now without those aids so I have been able to concentrate on myself. It has taken a bit of getting used to but at the same time it has been 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.”