Leon Haslam, a two-time winner of the Suzuka 8 Hours, is confident his Team Green Kawasaki squad can target the rostrum this year as he gives his insight into the demands of the prestigious endurance race.
Having claimed two Suzuka wins with Honda in 2013 and 2014, the MCE British Superbike rider is relishing the prospect of battling back in Japan having been absent from last year's event while in World Superbikes with Aprilia.
Haslam, along with Team Green team-mates Akira Yanagawa and Kazuke Watanabe, have ended the opening day of free practice third overall – behind defending champions the Yamaha factory and Yoshimura Suzuki.
After enjoying a stretch of tests building up to Suzuka, the British rider has quickly grown comfortable with the different specification of ZX-10R compared to his BSB machine and feels despite it being his maiden outing with Kawasaki the podium is a realistic target.
“The Suzuka 8 Hour bike is amazing; it has a full electronic rider aid package with traction control, anti-wheelie, an auto-blipper so you don't have to use the clutch,” Haslam said. “The other big factor is that for this race we use Bridgestone tyres so I have had to get dialled in to those again as we use a different manufacturer tyre [Pirelli] in the UK.
“From a competitive point of view and having tested the bike extensively I think there is no reason why we cannot challenge for the top step of the podium at Suzuka.
“I am confident we can fight for the top places and a win is possible I think. It would be a great personal achievement for me so that is what I am aiming for.”
Assessing the physical and mental tests Suzuka provides, Haslam says he will rely on his previous experience to prepare himself for the challenge.
“The challenge excites me and I take it seriously,” Haslam said. “Before and during the race I drink water as often as I can and take nutritional supplements.
“At the 2014 Suzuka 8 Hours I drank a massive 8 litres of water and electrolyte drinks across the day and still lost 5 kilos in weight due to the heat and exertion. Even during testing I lost 3 kilos and I drank a total of 25 litres of water.
“That means you have to monitor your intake, to know your body so you are fully fit and alert over 8 hours of competition.”
Haslam is joined in Suzuka by fellow BSB rival Ryuichi Kiyonari who is part of Team Kagayama Suzuki squad as well as a host of World Superbike riders including Josh Brookes (Yoshimura Suzuki), Alex Lowes (Yamaha Factory Racing) as well as Nicky Hayden and Michael van der Mark (MuSASHI HARC-PRO Honda).