Multiple World and British Superbike race-winner Leon Haslam believes he has ‘unfinished business’ in the MCE British Superbike Championship and now the Derbyshire rider is returning it home soil with the JG Speedfit Kawasaki team for an assault on the title that he has narrowly missed out on in the past.
The 32-year-old returns to the championship with a renewed desire to lift the coveted title after finishing runner-up to multiple title-winners Ryuichi Kiyonari and Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne during the 2006 and 2008 seasons. Haslam scored 16 race victories and a further 38 podium finishes in the British Championship before he moved to the World stage in 2008.
The ‘Pocket Rocket’ finished runner-up in the 2010 World Superbike title battle with Max Biaggi and most recently ended his 2015 campaign by claiming victory at the season finale in Qatar, taking his tally to five victories and a further 38 podium finishes in the championship, ending the year in fourth place in the overall standings.
He had an offer from Aprilia on the table to be the Italian factory’s MotoGP test rider, but the lure of securing a competitive fight and racing for a title proved to be too strong.
Haslam said: “I am really excited to be coming back to BSB because there is nothing like it and I want to be challenging to be number one every weekend – that is certainly my aim. I feel that I have unfinished business in the championship because I have just missed out on the title in the past and so I feel really motivated to try and change that next year with the JG Speedfit Kawasaki team.
“I feel that this is actually a step forward for me, because I am with one of the best teams in the paddock and riding one of the most competitive bikes with the new Kawasaki, because I am a racer and I want to be in a position to be fighting for race wins, which wouldn’t happen on an uncompetitive bike in the World Championship.
“I believe that one of the biggest new challenges for me coming back will be the difference in riding style because of the different technical regulations but I think that will be good for me because in BSB it is more down to the rider rather than if the electronics are not working right it just doesn’t work for you on track.
“I am excited to have a first ride of the new Kawasaki because there has already been so much positive feedback about it and if you look at the World Championship, that is the bike to beat and so to know we will be ready to come out fighting to win is a fantastic feeling. The first test is going to be about me adapting to the Kawasaki because we have lots to work on and develop, but fortunately the team have a great test programme so we will be ready to be pushing hard at the start of the season.
“The level of competition in BSB is really high, but at the same time when I was challenging for the title before I was up against riders like Johnny Rea, Leon Camier, Shakey, Tom Sykes and Cal Crutchlow – it was the best riders in Britain and the level is still exactly the same. For sure my list of things I want to achieve includes winning the BSB title and that is a new challenge for me next year.
“I have always been brought up by my dad to try everything you can to never be beaten, no matter what it takes. Every race I go out there and I want to win and so next year I intend to get the best out of myself and the whole JG Speedfit Kawasaki team to make that happen. I obviously want to be in the Showdown, and those final three rounds are at arguably my three favourite circuits on the calendar. I won’t be looking to be conservative though to get in that top six, I will be fighting all the way.”