Leon Haslam reflects on his dramatic near-misses on the Bennetts British Superbike title, why 2018 is his year plus his hotly-anticipated return to the World Superbike championship at Kawasaki alongside Jonathan Rea.

The JG Speedfit Kawasaki rider currently holds an 82-point lead in the BSB championship with just two rounds remaining before the Showdown comes into play. Heading to Cadwell Park, a circuit Haslam has dominated at in his BSB career, he has a key opportunity to break his championship hoodoo.

So at the moment with an 82 point lead in the BSB championship things have to be looking quite sweet?

Leon Haslam: Obviously with Shakey having been out since round 3 and we’ve won 7 of the 14 rounds things are looking good [Byrne suffered neck and spine injuries at a Snetterton test in May]. More than that I’ve managed to get wins at circuits where I’ve struggled in the past and my win at Thruxton meant that I ticked the box showing that I’ve won at every circuit – you could say so far so good.

Apart from that it’s been a busy year with me doing the Suzuka 8 hour and some WorldSBK rounds with all the associated testing so now just having the business end of the BSB season ahead of me means that I can focus there.

But you’ve got to be feeling more relaxed about the end of the BSB season than you have done in the past?

LH: But the 82 point lead I’ve got at the moment is really irrelevant because it all gets put back to 0 for the shootout – it’s all about the podium credits.

Last year I went into the last round with a 34-point lead and we had a disaster with the bike so we’ve got to keep our heads down. We can’t make assumptions. The idea is to go into the Showdown with as many podium credits as possible after a strong Assen and Oulton Park and see where we are then.

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Where is the Kawasaki strong?

LH: Just look at the places where everyone on Kawasakis do well, places like Knockhill which is a stop-start undulating circuit where the bike can use its strength on brakes. Kawasaki dominate the podium there every year.

Other circuits like Brands Hatch GP are more of a Yamaha/Ducati kind of circuit with longer flowing corners.

The good thing for me is that I think my win rate at Oulton Park is more or less 90% and that’s a Showdown circuit. I seem to win every year at Assen and this year at Brands we’re a lot closer to the Yamahas and Ducatis because we’ve made some good changes on the bike to bridge the gap on certain circuits. So even if it does go down to a last round decider we’ve got a package we can fight with and that for me is exciting.

We’re in the great position of looking for wins everywhere and we just need to go into the championship proper with as many podium credits as possible.

So I guess the BSB shootout formula isn’t too popular with you this season?

LH: It’s not going to be nice giving away an 80-plus lead but I’ve been on the receiving end of it too. Back in 2006 I might have been champion if there’d been a Showdown and if we hadn’t had the system in 2016 it could have gone my way too. It works both ways and it’s the same for everyone.

Given your years in BSB, surely this has to be serious unfinished business?

LH: Yes, but I go for championships every year. I moved to world championships early so was away from the UK for nine years or so but the time we have raced here we’ve come close numerous times and sometimes I felt that we really should have won it if it weren’t for a bit of bad luck. So yes the aim to tick the BSB box is very strong this year.

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