2017 Suzuka Eight-Hours: Haslam does half race distance on his own

Picture: Steve English

Team Green Kawasaki’s Leon Haslam completed half of the Suzuka Eight-Hours race distance on his own today, putting in five stints which took the team to second place behind Yamaha.

The Derby rider said it was the hardest Eight-Hours he had ever done but he was able to match the FCC TSR Honda team lap for lap and then took the second podium spot in the last half-hour. He caught Randy De Puniet at more half a second a lap and then the Frenchman’s Fireblade caught fire, necessitating a last-ditch pitstop.

“I did five stints in this race. It sounded like a good idea at the start of the day. It’s been the hardest Eight-Hours that I’ve ever done but I’m so happy to get second for Team Green and Kawasaki,” said Haslam.

“We’ve worked really well this week and to finish the race on the same lap as the Factory Yamaha Team is a really good performance. I’m over the moon with this week and really happy for the team because it’s been a hard few days but standing on the podium is always nice. Hopefully next year we’ll be able to go one better though.”

The race, like any endurance race, is a team effort but if there’s anyone who deserved the lion’s share of the praise in the Team Green Kawasaki box it was Haslam. Although they had three riders available, the Kawasaki outfit elected not to run Azlan Shah with Watanabe and Haslam sharing the riding duties.

More than share, Haslam ran an unbelievable final double stint as the squad chased down the FCC TSR Honda team. “We are doing a fantastic job in the team and Leon did an incredible last stint. It’s easy to see just how hard he was pushing as he’s dehydrated and with the doctors now,” Watanabe heaping the praise on the BSB title contender after the race.

Alongside five gruelling hours in the torturous Suzuka heat, Haslam also had to deal with a slow puncture towards the end of one of his stints. The Brit certainly raised a Japanese eyebrow or two after the puncture resulted in barely any change to his lap times.

A late safety car offered Haslam no rest, evaporating a several second difference to just a few bike lengths when the final half an hour began. Haslam probably thought he was hallucinating when he saw Randy De Puniet’s Honda catch fire in front of him, allowing the Derbyshire man to rebuild the advantage lost to the safety car.

Picture: Oli Haslam
Picture: Oli Haslam
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