So you had options after Aprilia?

LH: Oh sure but only on bikes that weren’t going to win anything so when I came back to the UK it was to be on a competitive bike. I made that clear to the people at Kawasaki and the teams I helped out in the world championship when I did the wildcard that even though they wanted me to be there with them, my desire was to do what Kawasaki wanted me to do but also be on something competitive.

That’s why I spent some time working with them in Japan, I did a race in the Japanese championship for them, testing for the Suzuka 8 Hours for the last three years and also had some involvement in development. I think it’s that contact and work I did for them that gave me the shove to be their official rider in WorldSBK.

Who is your contract with at the moment?

LH: My contract for the last three years has been with Kawasaki directly. When I ride in Japan it’s with Kawasaki Japan and in BSB its Kawasaki UK. My BSB team is actually owned by Pete Extance of Bournemouth Kawasaki and he employs Luke [Mossey, Haslam’s team-mate] as a rider whereas I’m employed by Kawasaki themselves.

It sounds like you’re well managed, how does that work?

LH: Well I’ve had a manager for a fair few years now but I do a lot of the negotiations myself now. I’ve had plenty of years in the game. I just interacted directly with them and because I’m already in the Kawasaki family it was really just internal negotiations.

I always made my feeling clear to them that if the opportunity did arise then I’d be more than interested so it was really just a question of working within the company.

How long ago was that decided?

LH: There were talks from the middle of the season but it’s not something which happens just like that because they had previous riders and also many other riders that wanted that role. In the end it wasn’t me pushing for it, they presented the chance to me.

Guessing that it’s not a one year learning and the next year results contract, there’ll be pressure from the start?

LH: They’re expecting me to go for wins from the start, they don’t employ riders not to win races and I’ve now got the bike and team to do that. There’s still going to be a lot of learning to do getting used to the higher electronic level and the new team. But from my side there are no excuses.

Also I’ll be in full competition with Jonathan [Rea] who’s just taken his fourth title in a row and is breaking all the records so even though I know it’s my best chance at the title I’ll be up against someone who’s absolutely on the crest of the wave.

Yes, JR is in truly frightening form at the moment…

LH: It’s the best I’ve seen him go and I’ve been going against him since 2004 I think. We’ve had some great battles and also get on extremely well. We used to motocross together and we’re good friends, there’ll be no problems there.

Tom Sykes had a pretty slick organisation going there with Marcel Duinker his crew chief, are you going to pretty much parachute into that situation or are you putting together a new crew?

LH: I believe that I’m moving directly into his side and working with Marcel. There will be some mechanic moves but I should just be taking over that situation.  I’ve worked with Marcel and Pere Riba in Japan and got on great. Working with people like that means the potential is so high and makes the season really exciting.

What length of contract do you have?

LH: It’s a one-year plus option for a second year but so many things have to fall into place for the option to become active but if I do my job on this bike, I should be winning.

The Haslam racing effort is very much a family concern, do your family welcome getting back into the globetrotting lifestyle?

LH: Well, it’s my job and we did a lot of travelling together in the past but now with the kids in school I’m going to have to play it by ear. Even though I’m currently racing in the UK, I’ve really been so busy with 20 races a year, Suzuka and WorldSBK duties. If I race in the UK there are also more sponsors duties to take care of which is a lot less on the world stage. In WorldSBK I just need to do the races.

I’m hoping the family will be able to come to as many rounds as possible because a rider’s duties now are all year and if you didn’t take those kind of opportunities you’d probably never see them.

Thanks for the chat Leon.

LH: That’s fine, no worries.

 

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