Leon Haslam has declared himself happy following provisional qualification for the opening World Superbike round in Australia, the British rider just missing out on a surprise pole position.
In what has been a fine return to WSBK competition for Haslam and an even better Superbike debut for Stiggy Honda, both rider and team were competitive throughout the day, culminating in Haslam grabbing provisional pole position for the final few minutes of qualifying.
Although quick laps from Jakub Smrz and Noriyuki Haga knocked him off the top spot with just a handful of seconds remaining, Haslam was delighted with the results.
Furthermore, having gone comfortably quicker than any other Honda rider on the circuit, Haslam believes there is still more to come from the package.
“I'm really happy! We had a great qualifying session. I was fastest up until the very last seconds, but I'm happy with my third place and my lap-times. In the beginning of the session we used an old tyre and went through all the different combinations we wanted to try, so that was good.
“When we put on a new tyre at the end of the session, the lap-times came easily. We got the suspension to work a lot better, but I can also feel that there is still lots more to come. We have some front end issues to work on tomorrow but, all and all, it's really working well.”
Team-mate Roberto Rolfo, meanwhile, endured a more difficult day down in 13th position.
The Italian showed flashes of promise during the early stages of qualifying, but gradually slid down the order when he couldn't improve on his best time. Nonetheless, Haslam has set him a benchmark he is confident he can match.
“I'm not so happy with my lap-time and position today. But we have found a good set-up on the bike which allows me to ride with a good rhythm and stay consistent. What we didn't manage today was to set that quick lap-time. We did however find a good tyre that will last a complete race distance. For tomorrow my goal is 1.32 lap-times and to try and maintain that pace.”