Leon Haslam has admitted that after conceding vital ground in the 2010 World Superbike Championship title chase to leading pursuer Max Biaggi at Monza last weekend, his principal goal in South Africa this weekend has to be to get the better of his Italian rival and re-establish his early-season advantage.
Courtesy of a double victory on home turf, Biaggi practically annihilated Haslam's erstwhile 20-point margin over him in one fell swoop around the historic Autodromo Nazionale, as the Alstare Suzuki star finished off the podium in fourth place in race one and runner-up later in the day in race two, leaving just three markers between the pair in the standings.
Worse still, a 'moment' in the opening encounter saw the British ace high-side spectacularly, somehow managing to retain control of his Suzuki GSX-R1000 but in the process hurting his left wrist by tweaking an old scaphoid and ligament injury.
That, he acknowledges, will not greatly aid his cause around one of the most undulating circuits on the calendar – featuring many changes of elevation and putting a priority on bike set-up and a good grid position – but the 26-year-old is confident that neither will it hold him back.
“Kyalami is a physically demanding track and it is going to give my left wrist a good workout,” Haslam admitted, “but I don't think it's going to be too much of a problem. It was well strapped-up in the afternoon [at Monza], and I didn't feel much pain. Of course, it would have been good to have a bit more of a gap between Monza and Kyalami, but I shall just have to put up with it.
“Max went well at Monza, so I will have to do my best to make sure I beat him and maintain my series lead. At Kyalami last year I qualified tenth, DNF'd in the first race and finished fourth in the second, so I will be aiming to do a lot better than that this weekend!”
Team-mate Sylvain Guintoli, for his part, will surely be aiming to do a lot better full stop, with the Frenchman's form thus far in WSBK 2010 having been disappointing – as tenth and seventh at Monza affirmed. Another track that is new to him, Kyalami will be a true test of just how much the former British Superbike Championship front-runner is able to improve his frustratingly indifferent qualifying form.
“It's going to be new territory for me riding the Suzuki at Kyalami,” the 27-year-old revealed, “and I will have to learn the track quickly and do well in qualifying. That's something I have been struggling with recently, but I know that I have to improve my results on Friday and Saturday or else it's very difficult to do well on race day.
“At the moment, I have been finding it a bit hard getting into a good rhythm in practice and qualifying, and that's preventing me from doing what I should be doing on race day. Kyalami has many ups and downs and it's a tough circuit at the best of times. I have to crack it early on and be in a good grid position – and that's what I will be trying my best to achieve.”