Q&A - Leon Haslam

The bike is new, but when Ten Kate first made the move from Supersports to Superbike, they finished second with Chris Vermeulen. At the end of the day, you gather data over the years in whatever class it is and with the staff that we have, they have brought a lot of information from other teams. I am feeling confident, because I have knowledge of around 80 per cent of the tracks.
How confident are you that you can challenge the factory Ten Kate Honda riders?

Leon Haslam:
As a rider, first and foremost, you want to win. The whole team wants to achieve that, but on the side of that you want to be the first Brit, beat your team-mate and be the best of whatever manufacturer you are riding for. I want to beat Ten Kate and be the first Honda, as well as the first Brit. If I can achieve those two things, then we can probably be inside the top three. For the first year, with a brand new team, I will be over the moon with that. They are your own little challenges and goals, but Stiggy as a team has the same aims. They want to be the top Honda and beat the official team, so to have that behind you and a nice, calm atmosphere, it is really good.
Do you get the impression that Honda would prefer it if one of the Ten Kate riders win and therefore send more development parts there way?

Leon Haslam:
Not at all. I know how Honda works. I was with HM Plant and they got more equipment than Ten Kate got. The way the Honda is going in World Superbikes, it is a pretty open book on that front. A lot of the work Ten Kate do, they do themselves. There aren't many 'special' parts around these days and the ones that are around are available to all of the teams, so I am not worried on that front. Anything that they have got that works, it comes down to experience.
How concerned are you about some of the unknown circuits, such as Miller Motorsports Park? Will you approach those weekends differently?

Leon Haslam:
There are three that I haven't encountered before. I have not done Miller, Nurburgring or Misano. I have had some of my best results at tracks I have not visited before, while there are going to be several riders who haven't been there before either, like Byrne and Sykes. All of the top runners, such as Corser, Biaggi and Haga, they are all on different machines, so while they may know the circuits, they have to set the bike up for that track. It is going to be a mega exciting year because all of the riders you would put your money on are on different bikes. In my opinion, the only competitive riders that have stayed on the same bike are Checa and Kiyonari, but for whatever reason they have not been topping the timesheets recently, so that is a good benchmark to where they are and where we should be.
How do you feel going into this season, compared to when you last raced in WSBK?

Leon Haslam:
I first came to World Superbikes in 2004 and it was my first season on Superbikes. It was a massive eye opener! I was team-mate to Noriyuki Haga, who was challenging for the championship, and I managed to get a podium, but I also got injured and missed the second half of the season with a broken wrist. It was a tough blending year on a Superbike, but I loved every moment of it. I grew up on the European tracks, so I am looking forward to getting back on that scene and returning to circuits where you can really battle and overtake on.
Where do you expect to be during the first round in Australia?

Leon Haslam:
Phillip Island is one of my favourite circuits. This will be the fifth time I have raced in Australia, which is more than some English circuits! We had the one test in Portugal, which wasn't the best of weather, so we lacked a bit of track time, but luckily we will be testing there for two days prior to that. If the test in Australia goes well and we have the bike 80 to 90 per cent complete, I am confident we can be pushing for top fives and podiums on the race weekend.
What exactly would have liked to have achieved by the end of the season?

Leon Haslam:
If I can be the first Brit and the first Honda, then that will be my number one priority. If I can achieve that with the competition of Shane, Tom and Jonathan Rea, then they are all guys who can be top three or five. If I beat them, then I know I will be in that area too. That will be perfect for the first year with a new team and I'd definitely look forward to the next season when I try to win it.
Did you expect to be graduating to World Superbikes so soon after joining Honda?

Leon Haslam:
The last three years I have been promised by GSE, Ducati and HM Plant Honda that they would make the move, but each year it hasn't happened. When I signed to Honda, I told them I want to be with them but I was told they would progress to World Superbikes too. It was exactly the same as what happened with GSE and, for whatever reason, it didn't happen. I'd have loved to have moved with GSE or HM Plant over the last two or three years, but it didn't happen. I am really happy now that I have made the move, especially with the way the World Superbike Championship has gone. It is always something that I wanted to do, knowing that I could be competitive. I did at race at Donington and Portugal, and in all the races I was battling for podiums, so I know I can make an impression on the championship.
There is an influx of British riders entering WSBK this season – do you think this is the start of a golden era for Britain?

Leon Haslam:

Related Pictures

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Haslam, Portuguese WSBK Test 2009

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February 08, 2009 7:06 PM

Glad to hear Leon sounding so much more positive and cheerful about where he is. He's too professional to criticise HM Plant outright, but reading between the lines he wasn't all that happy there. I know he's got a lot of detractors who carp about 'Oh its all because his dad opens doors' but actually he is there on merit. Yeah, yeah riders could always have done better but look at his record, not least in WSB, and its pretty sound. If Stiggy's backers stay on board we ARE going to see him on the podium more than once this season.

gsxr-1000 - Unregistered

February 20, 2010 6:33 PM

leon really sounds up for a really good season.. hope so he is one of the riders a like to see do well he is a good racer and has his dad for helping him. go on leon you can do it just hope you dont hurt yourself early in the season and get good points goodluck

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