Leon Haslam can call himself an international race winner for the first time in his career after breaking his long-awaited World Superbike victory duck at Phillip Island, the Briton proving he will be a force to be reckoned with this season in the process.
A day after signalling his intentions with a maiden pole position during Superpole, Haslam converted it into a convincing victory in race one, while only a last gasp effort from Carlos Checa in race two prevented him from doubling up for the revitalised Suzuki Alstare team.
Celebrating his first race as a factory-supported rider in the best way possible, while Haslam led from start-to-finish, he was still made to work hard for victory after fending off race long pressure from Michel Fabrizio and Noriyuki Haga.
Indeed, his winning margin could barely have been tighter, Haslam clinching victory by a mere four thousandths of a second over Fabrizio in a photo-finish determined result.
“I am so happy to get my first WSBK win and it feels great,” he smiled. "I want to thank the team and all the staff back at the workshop for all their support and hard work and I'd also like to thank Francis and Patricia Batta for having faith in me.
“The first race was such hard work and it was impossible to relax for a second. I knew that I had Michel and Nori breathing down my neck, but I just kept concentrating on my lines and my braking points and tried to hold them off. I realised that Michel was in my wheeltracks going into the last turn and would try and use the draft to get past me, but I kept my head down and charged to the flag.
“At the end, I didn't know if I'd won or not, but when I realised that I had, I was so unbelievably happy and it was such a fantastic feeling. All weekend I knew that a win was possible, but thinking about and it happening are two different things!”
A repeat performance appeared to be in the offing for Haslam in race two after seeming to have come out on top of in an entertaining dual between himself and team-mate Sylvain Guintoli during the closing stages. However, he had no answer to Checa, who would deny Haslam the double with a last gasp pass on the final lap of the race.
Nonetheless, Haslam wasn't too disheartened by the outcome, maintaining that he is delighted to be leaving the opening round of the season with the championship lead in his pocket.