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EXCLUSIVE: Haslam: Light at the end of the tunnel

14 April 2013

By Neil Morrison

Leon Haslam made the much-anticipated move to the Pata Honda World Superbike team over the off-season. His early season form, like teammate Jonathan Rea's, has been riddled by electronic set up issues. However, a strong race performance at Phillip Island suggested improvements were being made.

He finished Superpole in 11th after one of his unluckiest days in recent memory. He crashed on his first lap in Q2, destroying the bike and forcing him to sit out the remainder of the session. His final free practice session was severely hampered by a failed sensor, again ruling out valuable track time.

Crash.net:
Surely you've had better days Leon….

Leon Haslam:
Yeah, in Q2 I went out and crashed first lap, I don't know why, it was a weird one and made me miss the whole session. Free practice two, we put everything back to our standard working and the bike wouldn't run again. We found out after that a sensor had broke. So we missed all that. Went to Superpole on a bike that had done lap and wouldn't run. Luckily it ran. Even though we only ended up 11th we found over a second and a half over what we had all weekend. But we've missed two days.

Crash.net:
Were you ok after the spill?

Leon Haslam:
I'm fine. I tweaked my knee a little bit as I went to ground but it destroyed the bike so missing the last session was a big hindrance.

Crash.net:
Can you take solace from your performance in the first race at Phillip Island where you rode around the problems?

Leon Haslam:
The pace that I had was good enough for two thirds at least and I had a problem there when I was up to second from mid race onwards the problem occurred. We were only heading backwards after that point. But if we didn't have that problem I'm confident we had the pace to run with them guys. I was losing quite a lot on the straights to the Aprilias but we were still keeping the pace so that was quite positive in terms of what the bike was capable of.

Crash.net:
Are you confident you can do the same tomorrow and ride around any issues you have?

Leon Haslam:
Yeah, as long as the electronics stay stable like in Superpole one then I'm pretty confident I can ride round the chassis and tyre problems. We haven't done any set up on tyres or suspension or done any race runs as the bike's not been running. It's going to be a bit of a gamble to see what it'll be like when the tyres go off. Our main concern is these electronics issues.

Crash.net:
You tested here two weeks ago, then Alcarras soon after. Did you work on anything other than electronics?

Leon Haslam:
No. Purely electronics. We didn't even change a click on the suspension. We're happy with the chassis. The electronics have such an influence over the chassis, so when they aren't working it doesn't feel right. It's pointless setting it up without the electronics working. But generally the Honda is a good handling bike.

Crash.net:
Do you feel your style is more suited to the Honda?

Leon Haslam:
It allows me to be more aggressive. It allows you to do more as a rider; you're not just fixed to one style, one way of working. I do like that about the Honda. However, nowadays everything revolves around the guy with a computer and that's a big factor right now.

Crash.net:
You're in the position where you can directly compare the CBRs strengths and failings with one of your main competitors, the S1000 RR. What are the main differences?

Leon Haslam:
We had the exact same problems [with electronics] when I went to BMW. Honestly the BMW only got sorted when the Yamaha guys came over with Marco. They brought their information from Yamaha and we made big steps straight away. Everything was happening way too slowly in our first year. The bike and handling and engine characteristics were still super sensitive but when you did get it working it was a winning motorbike.

Crash.net:
Despite the tough day today, you're still smiling and seem positive.

Leon Haslam:
The team keep saying how patient I am and how well I keep dealing with these issues. I've been there and experienced these problems before. Even though it's not ideal for winning races the boys are working 24 hours a day on it. We have people working at Cosworth and HRC and we can't do any more than we're doing.

Crash.net:
You must be relishing getting to Assen. You did ok when you last rode a Honda there?

Leon Haslam:
Over the years Ten Kate have done so many days of testing there. Jonathan always seems to pull it out of the bag at Assen. When I rode the Honda with Spies and Haga in 2009 I had a second and a third. I haven't done any tests there with the team but I'm fairly confident it will work well there.

Crash.net:
How have you settled in to the Ten Kate team?

Leon Haslam:
It has more of a racing background and it was a decision that I made to get back to normality and enjoy my racing. That's one thing Ten Kate can do. They pull together. When I crashed this morning there were 9 guys working together rebuilding my bike. They want to win as much as anyone but I feel a lot more at home here.

Crash.net:
Does it put added pressure on yourself when you act up as test rider as well?

Leon Haslam:
The BMW had test riders and test teams and that wasn't that good. You doing it yourself give you that progression to go faster and we had 6 days of testing in 8 days, the week of the race, but it was needed. It was unfortunate with the problem, but there's definitely light at the end of the tunnel.


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