Leon Haslam thinks he has a bike capable of challenging for the 2010 World Superbike title after maintaining the momentum he has built up since joining the Suzuki Alstare team with a star turn during testing.
The former Stiggy Honda racer joined the factory-backed Suzuki team at the end of the 2009 season and has gone on to raise eyebrows with his immediate pace aboard the GSX-R1000, a bike that often struggled for form last season.
Indeed, with the countdown to the 2010 season now well underway, Haslam can now count himself among the title contenders after topping two of the six sessions over the course of the weekend in Portugal and ending up second in the remaining four.
Adding that he may have been able to overhaul Jonathan Rea for the honour of the fastest time overall had he not been baulked on his fastest lap, Haslam is brimming with confidence about his new bike and team.
“On the first day of the test, the track was in good condition and my lap times came easy, so I was looking forward to more of the same,” Haslam, who has been battling flu recently, said. “But day two started wet and although that put paid to some of our plans, it did allow us to work on finding a good wet set-up and that's what we did.
“On day three, the track felt a bit slippery - probably because of the previous day's rain - and then the wind picked up in the afternoon, so I couldn't really make any big improvement on my lap times. Also, I got baulked on my hot lap and lost some time and, if it had not have been for that, I may have just sneaked ahead of Jonathan.
“But the important thing is that I am happy and the team are happy. We got through a lot of things and achieved everything we set out to do. The good work started the first time I rode bike, back in last October and since then we've just kept on improving and now I feel we are ready to race.
“This track is an excellent track for testing because it has got a bit of everything and it is also very demanding. I think if you can get a good set-up here (which we have done) it will be a good base for all the other tracks on the calendar. I am really happy with the whole team and I think we've got a great all-round package to challenge for the title.”
Leon Haslam's Portimao test card
1min 43.023s – 1st
1min 42.778s – 1st
(wet) 1min 55.138s – 2nd
Saturday PM: (wet)
1min 49.391s – 2nd
1min 43.060s – 2nd
1min 42.557s – 2nd
1min 42.55 – 2nd