Leon Haslam has described 2010 as 'the best opportunity I've had in my career' and 'a big year' as he prepares to make his competitive debut for Alstare Suzuki in the World Superbike Championship (WSBK) – and he is bidding to get it off the mark by replicating his podium finish of twelve months ago in the Phillip Island curtain-raiser in Australia this weekend.
Haslam performed minor miracles in 2009 for an underfunded Stiggy Honda concern that sadly ultimately collapsed come season's end, comfortably holding the upper hand over each of his respective team-mates Roberto Rolfo, John Hopkins and Jake Zemke to practically single-handedly spearhead the Austrian outfit's effort and indeed lead the Honda threat for the opening half of the year, ahead of the usually dominant Ten Kate brigade.
Along the way there were four rostrum finishes en route
to sixth spot in the final riders' standings – cementing the former British Superbike Championship (BSB) runner-up's reputation as one of the series' leading lights and most highly-rated talents – and as he embarks now upon his new challenge with Alstare Suzuki, the 26-year-old son of GP hero 'Rocket' Ron Haslam is endeavouring to do even better again.
“Phillip Island is a great circuit,” enthused the man who took the chequered flag third in race two Down Under in 2009 and has tested twice at the track close to Melbourne over the winter break. “We've put in a lot of laps here, back in November and last Sunday and Monday, so I'm fully dialled-in and ready to go.
“As always, we've looked at getting the machine to work as close as possible with the tyres to try and ensure longevity from the tyres throughout the races. We're pretty happy with what we've got, but Phillip Island being coastal means you can have a five-degree change in track temperature in ten minutes – and that can make a huge difference to tyre wear.
“I've got a big year ahead; this is the best opportunity I've had in my career, and I'm obviously keen to make the most of it. Since I first worked with Alstare and the Suzuki guys back in October, we've continually improved the machine and it really feels like a team geared for success.
“Between now and the final round in France in October there will be plenty of twists-and-turns. All I want is to be consistent during the year, and I'm confident we have the machine and the team to challenge for podiums and race wins on a regular basis.
“The transition from 2009 to my new team has been about as smooth as it could have been, and now it's time for me to do my part and repay them with some solid results to get the 2010 championship underway in the best possible fashion.”