Leon Haslam is aiming to challenge for his first World Superbike victory during his farewell ride for the Stiggy Honda team at Portimao on Sunday - when he will be the team's only rider.
Thanks to some head-turning performances this season, the first in WSBK for Haslam since 2004 and the first ever for the Stiggy team, the Englishman has been signed-up by the official Alstare Suzuki outfit for 2010.
The leading Honda rider during the early part of the season, Haslam arrives at the season finale sixth in the championship, with four podiums to his credit - including two second places.
The 26-year-old was a wild-card rider in last year's final round in Portugal and finished in seventh and third places.
“I have some good memories of Portimao and since those races a year ago we've tested there last twice so I'm pretty hopeful that we'll be able to get on the pace quickly and try and end the season by challenging for a first win,” said Haslam.
“I want to go out of the season on a high with the Stiggy Team to say thank you to them for the opportunity I have had this year. We got on the podium a few times on a privateer machine and we will be going for that again in the final rounds.
“We started 2009 really well with a podium in Australia then second and third places in Holland and after our mid season dip in performance we've regained a good pace,” reflected the Englishman. “The lap times are coming pretty comfortably and I'm hoping that we can find that extra something that will put me near the top step of the podium on Sunday.”
Despite its on-track success, the Stiggy team has struggled with a lack of funding.
“The 2009 season has been a tough one for Johan Stigefelt and the team and it's a credit to them and their hard work that we've made it through those difficult times,” said Haslam. “We've had 18 finishes in the top eight out of 26 races, that's probably something we would have all accepted at the start of the year. We also have a great sixth place in the world championship in the team's first year and we are now in a position to end the season on a high.”
Those funding problems recently forced Stiggy to cut its rider line-up from four to two - and the team has now been forced to drop its sole remaining WSS rider Anthony West as well.
“Economic difficulties have made it impossible for us to finish the season the way we wanted,” confirmed team manager and former grand prix rider Stigefelt. “Yet again I have been forced to take drastic measures and had to cut Anthony for the last race.