As he finally takes a well-deserved break from what he confesses has been a 'non-stop' run of events, Leon Haslam has had time to step back and reflect upon a World Superbike Championship campaign that at one stage he had looked set to dominate but that he ultimately concluded as the bridesmaid – but he is satisfied that he and Alstare Suzuki 'got the most out of the package that we had'.
Haslam came out of the starting blocks in fighting form at the beginning of the season, prevailing in the Phillip Island curtain-raiser – incredibly, his maiden WSBK victory – and then again in Valencia a month-and-a-half later as he impressively took the chequered flag inside the top two in every one of the first five races to storm away in the title standings.
There were further podiums at Assen, Monza, Miller Motorsports Park and Misano, and another triumph at Kyalami – but then suddenly, the momentum stopped. As principal rival Max Biaggi
went on a near-invincible mid-season winning streak, Suzuki's lack of development for the ageing GSX-1000RR contrasted starkly with Aprilia's relentless work on its RSV4 – and almost overnight, Haslam was no longer in control of his own destiny.
Although the British star recovered to some extent over the final third of the campaign – tallying three rostrum finishes in the last four meetings – by then the damage was done, with Alstare left lamenting 'a lack of interest' from the factory in Japan for costing Haslam the coveted crown, in the wake of several unanswered pleas for more support as Biaggi and Aprilia increasingly took charge over the summer [see separate story – click here
Whilst refusing to point the finger of blame himself, the son of former GP legend 'Rocket' Ron Haslam does muse that in the circumstances, neither he nor the team could have done any more in their pursuit of title glory.
“I don't think it was a lack of interest,” the 27-year-old – who has since jumped ship to BMW for 2011 – told Crash.net Radio
. “They made a decision before the season started that their efforts and development weren't going to be in World Superbikes or with the Alstare team. We didn't have anything to look forward to in that respect, but that really made us get the most out of what we had, so I think that actually benefitted us in that every weekend we felt we were really doing the job that we were there to do.
“Mid-season, I was definitely looking for a step forward to try and compete and it got tough from that point onwards. Max wasn't ever too far ahead, but when he was on-form and doing well, he was getting double wins; we grounded out some wins and lots of podiums, but it was always a battle.
“I look back, and [the accident in race two over] the Miller weekend lost me 30 points, which was my fault; for sure, we had other issues throughout the year, but in general I think the team definitely got the most out of the package that we had. We still had some really good races, and to finish second in the world for my first time in a semi-factory team, I've got to be happy with that.
“Losing the championship was obviously disappointing, but I've had a fantastic season and really enjoyed it. Max was just super-consistent and fast and he finished every race in the points – and that's what wins titles.”