Leon Haslam says he's determined to return to the Suzuka 8 Hours to grab a third career win after taking for second place with Team Green Kawasaki alongside Akira Yanagawa and Kazuki Watanabe, beating the Yoshimura Suzuki squad in a race-long battle.
The MCE British Superbike title contender has made his comeback at Suzuka for the first time since his second career win in 2014, this time with the official Kawasaki squad. Despite conceding that Kawasaki struggled to match the race pace of Yamaha's Alex Lowes, Pol Espargaro and Katsuyuki Nakasuga, Haslam found his crew up to second after the factory Honda entry retired with a mechanical issue.
With Haslam's crew evenly matched against Yoshimura Suzuki, Haslam became involved in a thrilling duel with Noriyuki Haga – his World Superbike team-mate in 2004 – after the five-hour mark before returning for a final stint battle with Josh Brookes to hold on to second against the Australian.
The British rider says the #87 team was content with taking the runner-up spot and paid credit to his crew having maximised its full potential.
“Second place wasn't that bad today," Haslam said. "It was a good race and easy to keep focus as we battled with the Yoshimura Suzuki Team for second place.
"The machine and tyres were fine throughout and the crew did a great job in the pit stops. Our guys worked really hard and fought hard when we needed to either chase down the Suzuki or offer some damage limitation.
"Of course I was hoping for a third victory but we knew the strength of the factory Yamaha team after the test sessions we've had in the last two months and it was clear that they had a strong rider line-up and machine.”
Having returned to Suzuka action after a brief hiatus, Haslam is relishing the prospect of further potential outings in the hunt for a third victory.
"The Suzuka 8 hours is a race I grew up following so to continue racing in it is great - I just hope I can join the elusive list of three-time winners one day,” he confirmed.
Haslam will fly back to the UK to return to his BSB campaign for round seven at Brands Hatch. The former World Superbike star currently sits second in the riders' championship and 15 points off leader Shane Byrne.