Leon Haslam has given an emotional outpouring after clinching his maiden professional title with the 2018 Bennetts British Superbike championship by settling for sixth place in race one at the Brands Hatch finale.

Knowing he needed to concede fewer than 11 points to Jake Dixon in the opening race at the Brands Hatch triple-header to seal the BSB crown, Haslam opted to ride conservatively for sixth place with his major title rival only able to take second place behind winner Glenn Irwin.

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Haslam says due to his previous painful BSB Showdown experiences, having narrowly missed out on the title for the past two seasons at the final round, he accepted riding against his instincts and collecting the points would be best option.

“Honestly that was the longest race ever, I wanted to push on but then I caught up [Peter] Hickman and I didn’t want to make a mistake trying to pass him,” Haslasm said. “I was having a little bit of a problem with the front and everything was starting to go through my mind. I thought as long as Jake is winning it would be fine so I settled but it was a long 20 laps.

“This year has been fantastic and a big, big thank you to my team behind me. A second year with the team and they’ve been faultless all year so to roll around and finish sixth to get the title is not my style or the teams’ style but honestly I’m really happy with everything.

“I’m over the moon, I wouldn’t say there has been a lot of pressure because I knew what to do. I had to ride out there like I had been all year and I didn’t want to make a mistake so I rode cautiously thinking about the title. I knew Jake wouldn’t catch both Ducatis in the last few laps so I settled quite early but at the same time it was a long, long race not knowing to push or not and trying to keep out of trouble wasn’t easy.”

Haslam heads back to the World Superbike championship for 2019 with the factory Kawasaki squad and feels despite two near-misses for BSB titles in consecutive years his first-ever professional championship acts as a sweet bow out of the national series.

“The last few years have been fantastic, the first year back in 2016 we scored the most points but I crashed twice in the Showdown so that was my mistake,” he said. “Last year we came into the last round with the lead and had two mechanicals.

“So I am really happy with what we’ve achieved with the Kawasaki as we got the most out of our package with 14 wins. I’ve had some fantastic battles throughout and wins at every track except this one so hopefully we can rectify it tomorrow.”

Reflecting on his triumphant 2018 campaign, Haslam feels the key moments to his season were his first Kawasaki wins at unfancied tracks which allowed to him take a dominant grip in the riders' standings heading into the Showdown.

“I think back to the couple of wins I’ve had at tracks that I didn’t expect having had issues in the past,” he said. “My Thruxton win and my Snetterton win were at tracks that we had always struggled at the in the past and we managed to conquer the top step.

“We’ve not had many races where we’ve had issues and when we have had them we’ve managed to win or get on the podium so that is a credit to where we are with the bike and the set-up that we’ve got to grind out results.

With 14 BSB race wins this year, Haslam is eager to finish his title-winning campaign in style and tick off his final goal in 2018.

“We’ve just to go out and enjoy it [Sunday] by getting the best results we can,” he said. “The weather might be slightly different tomorrow so that might throw a different mix to it.

“There are other people fighting for championship places so they are all going to go out hard so it won’t be easy. If I can finish with a win at the only track I’ve not won at it would be fantastic.”

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