As he begins his quest to turn BMW into not only race-winners but indeed also genuine title contenders in the World Superbike Championship in 2011, new signing Leon Haslam has enthused about the 'massive' potential he feels there is within the team.
Having been released by his 2010 employer Alstare – due to Suzuki's persistent failure to confirm its level of support next season – Haslam was quick to put pen-to-paper to join forces with the factory BMW outfit, with an announcement made the very next day.
The British ace – who finished as runner-up to Aprilia rival Max Biaggi in the final riders' standings this year – but would arguably have won had only Suzuki's commitment to development matched his own commitment out on the racetrack – has already tested his new, 2011-spec S1000RR mount at Motorland Aragon in Spain earlier this month, setting some competitive lap times straight out-of-the-box. And that, he assures, is merely the start.
“It's definitely a big new challenge,” he told Crash.net Radio of his move to pastures new. “BMW have only had two seasons in World Superbikes, and they're still learning and it's a brand new package, but for me the potential is massive. I do feel we've got to do a lot more testing to sort out this base setting that everybody looks for, but from my side of it, it's just really, really exciting.
“The Suzuki I felt was a very, very good all-round package, but we were getting the most out of it. With the BMW, I feel that the potential in a lot of areas is a lot higher than it's at right now, but we need time to fine-tune that out of it. Hopefully with a good winter's testing, we can definitely put it where it needs to be at the sharp end.”
Adamant that the German manufacturer can aim for glory next year despite having flattered only to ultimately deceive in 2010 – failing even to win a race and indeed falling significantly from the leading pace over the second half of the campaign, following a number of starring early performances from Troy Corser that had hinted at a breakthrough – Haslam was also quick to play down the departure of esteemed team manager Davide Tardozzi, the man credited in large part with improving BMW's fortunes.
“I never really saw any of that,” the 27-year-old insisted. “When I came on-board it had already changed around, and for sure there are [more] big changes being made right now. I've brought my main guy, Giacomo [Guidotti], as chief mechanic, I've got a couple of other English guys working in the team and we've had two tests already and the team is gelling unbelievably well together. For my side, I've got my team around me and we've got a direction in which we want to go in all the areas – so we just need to execute that and put it into practice.
“There are a lot of factors involved, and it's a big step even from third to winning. For sure, Troy and Ruben [Xaus] have shown glimmers of light of what the bike's capable of, and for me, another full winter's testing is going to be the key point to getting it onto the top step [of the podium] – and I think once it gets there, as a team and as a company, they'll put as much as they can into it.”
As to the prospect of working alongside double WSBK Champion Corser – 'Mr. Superpole' himself – Haslam is similarly enthusiastic, and buoyant, too, about the role that the new BMW Motorrad Italia satellite operation will be able to play in helping to drive development forward in 2011.
“Troy and I have always got on,” he affirmed. “We actually spoke to each other before the season started this year, and he was a big help when I went to Alstare because he used to race there. Now we're team-mates, we can work together to progress this bike, and that's another factor that I'm really looking forward to.
“BMW Italia is a proven team, with [Ayrton] Badovini winning pretty much all the races [in the Superstock 1000 Cup in 2010], so for sure they're going to be competitive. They're getting the same bikes as us, and hopefully they can help us as much as we can help them to progress as a company as well as getting good results between us.”