Leon Haslam is predicting the second round of the World Superbike Championship in Portugal will be a tighter affair than the season opener in Australia, although the series leader remains confident that he will continue to be amongst the front runners.

Haslam has assumed an early advantage in the World Superbike standings following an almost 'perfect weekend' at Phillip Island, the Briton following up his maiden Superpole with a first win and a second place finish for new employers Suzuki.

Having hinted as much during pre-season testing, Haslam was quick from the off at Phillip Island, the former MotoGP rider's method of focusing on race set-up during the practice sessions paying dividends on both occasions.

However, while Haslam was able to fend off the likes of Ducati in a straight fight in Australia, he identified a number of expected rivals who suffered teething issues during the opener before suggesting it is unlikely they will be struggling quite so much in Portugal.

"In Australia, at one point, there were five or six Ducatis in the top eight, and Portimao is similar for them - Shane Byrne goes well there, so does Carlos Checa, Noriyuki Haga and Michel Fabrizio... There are just so many riders capable of winning," he told Crash.net.

"Australia eliminated a few because of various problems - Yamaha struggled, Aprilia didn't get the most out of their bike and Jonathan Rea had issues too - but we've all tested at Portimao, so I expect more people capable of winning in Portugal."

Despite potentially greater on-track competition, Haslam is feeling positive about his chances in Portugal, not least because he was never outside the top two positions during pre-season testing there.

"I've proved in testing that I can be amongst them, we just have to keep pushing, but the Ducatis go well there, Yamaha will no doubt step up and Johnny [Rea] was also fast in testing."

Looking back at the opening round, although Haslam had been pleased with his progress during testing, he admits he didn't quite know how the Suzuki would perform in race conditions.

Nonetheless, having gone on to claim the opening race by the smallest winning margin in WSBK history, Haslam joked that the confusion over who had won between himself and Michel Fabrizio left him disappointed he couldn't celebrate his maiden WSBK victory as he had always envisaged.

"I crossed the line and I could see how close it was, but I was pretty confident about it," he added. "Then we went round the first few turns and we looked at each other, because neither of us really knew. The first big screen we came to, coming out of Honda corner, there was a big screen showing Michel's team celebrating and I was thinking 'no way, he's won it!'.

"Then we saw another big screen and I saw all of my guys celebrating, so I thought I might have done it after all. Then Michel pointed at me and I was able to do a little bit of a celebration and give people a wave, but until then, I just sat on the bike wondering if I'd done it.

"Obviously, I had, which was awesome, but for a first win, it was a shame I didn't get to celebrate as I normally would have!"

Haslam's victory and second place finish has given him an early nine point lead in the overall standings.


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