Early-season World Superbike Championship leader Leon Haslam has conceded that the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza – scene of this weekend's fifth round of the 2010 campaign – will likely be a happy hunting ground for Aprilia, but he is confident the circuit will also suit his Suzuki sufficiently to enable him to retain his advantage in the chase for the coveted crown.
Haslam has slowly-but-surely eked out a 20-point margin over closest challenger Max Biaggi
in the title standings courtesy of a supremely consistent run through the opening four rounds at Phillip Island, Portimão, Valencia and Assen – with a brace of victories and four further podium finishes from eight races – and last time out in the Netherlands, the Alstare Suzuki star increased that lead despite an uncharacteristically distant eleventh place in the opening encounter.
“I had a strange feeling with the front of the bike after the warm-up lap,” he revealed in an interview with Crash.net Radio
. “They assessed the bike and checked the pressures, but they couldn't see anything in particular wrong. I did the whole race, but I couldn't run into the corners as the front kept folding.
“Afterwards we found the actual pressure had dropped to a lot less than it should have been, and that explained the problems we had. Why I had a problem on the first lap when the tyre pressure was up I don't know; there was a tyre issue with it deflating and maybe one before that, so that was frustrating but I was happy to get five points.”
Haslam added to that tally with 20 further points for the runner-up spot later on in a thrilling race two, taking the chequered flag just under two seconds adrift of Jonny Rea – and with former double champion James Toseland coming in third, it meant the rostrum for both races was filled entirely by British riders, a WSBK first and an achievement the 26-year-old admitted was 'unique'.
“Up to half race distance I felt really confident for the win and I was making half-decent moves,” recounted the son of former GP hero 'Rocket' Ron Haslam, “but we had a bit of a chatter problem which got worse for the last five-to-six laps. Jonny had a good race and he rode solid.
“I was a little disappointed I wasn't there in the last couple of laps to have a go at him, but with the issues we had over the weekend I was quite happy with second. After missing out in race one with the problems I had, it was nice to have an all-Brit podium in the second one as well.”
On the subject of his countrymen, Haslam went on to offer his thoughts on the performances to-date of namesake and reigning British Superbike Champion Leon Camier at Aprilia, Ten Kate Honda's Rea and Yamaha Sterilgarda duo Toseland and Cal Crutchlow – as well as the surprising general lack of consistency from Ducati and eternal WSBK bridesmaid Noriyuki Haga.
“Pre-season I thought it would be Haga and Biaggi [to challenge], but for whatever reason the factory [Ducati] team is just not there and has not been competitive,” he opined. “Max has always been there and been consistent, and for sure Nori has the talent, so once they get things sorted he will be there.