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.