For the second year in succession, Leon Haslam’s challenge for the MCE British Superbike crown ended with a high-speed trip into a Brands Hatch gravel trap - but the Smalley rider doesn’t believe he is jinxed.
On Sunday, October 15, Haslam had done half the job he needed to do by passing Shane Byrne in the last race of the day but seconds later, a failed front brake saw him bounce into the gravel at 170mph, breaking his ankle, wrist and thumb.
A year earlier, a broken handlebar saw him do the same thing but this time at Stirlings in qualifying which was a precursor to another crash in race one which effectively sealed runner-up spot for the JG Speedfit Kawasaki man.
“I was laying in the gravel trap with a lot of injuries but not unhappy. I got away with an horrendous crash and knowing I had lost the championship but I know that I had done everything possible within myself to do what needed to be done,” Haslam told bikesportnews.com.
“I was in a lot of pain, I knew my ankle and wrist were broken but it was only another 300 yards to go and congratulate Shane. It wasn’t to do anything other than that. Shane had a good year. Yes, I had a nightmare and yes I think I deserved the championship but he won it. He didn’t want to see me crash. If I had won the championship that way, I would have been concerned about him.
“He was behind me when the brakes failed, he has crashed at that corner and he knows the risks. We have a lot of respect for each other. Both of us had a lot of bad luck. I had eight DNFs, which is unheard of, but went into the last round with that lead. It showed that when we were good, we were doing a lot of winning.”
It had been a season of highs and lows for Haslam, including coping with a broken vertebrae sustained in a crash at Knockhill which ruled him out of that round. But wins and podium finishes, plus some DNFs for rivals Josh Brookes and Shane Byrne, saw a big lead going into the final round.
“We knew we didn’t have to beat Shane or Josh we just needed some normal results. We had a clutch go in race one – a backspinner broke – and that fourth place was as hard as I could possible ride. It was a big hindrance but we did what we needed to do.
“Race two, the front tyre had 15psi in it more than it should have for the race. I couldn’t hold a line and was running wide. My laptimes were a second and a half slower than I had been doing all weekend. That was devastating really, but I kept it upright all race and salvaged what we could.
“That resulted in a fourth-row start as I didn’t put in a decent laptime. I had to beat Shane to win but I knew that if everything went smoothly, I know we had a decent shot at it. I got in front of him and worked my way up to the back of the podium guys and then no brakes – I had to jump off. And at the fastest part of the track.
“The brake had faded three corners before. I never had it before, the brakes had been perfect all year but I came into Hawthorn, I pulled the lever, nothing, so I stamped on the back brake put 55bar of pressure on that and then jumped off all in 1.6 seconds.
“The hardest thing was I had two MCAMS bikes in front of me so I couldn’t swerve to the inside so I had to jump off in a straight line otherwise I would have hit them. That weekend we went in with a 32-point lead feeling I could win any of the races if I wanted to push but circumstances that you couldn’t make up put an end to it.
Haslam has a hospital appointment today at Queen’s Medical Centre to see if the cast can come off his leg and then it is business as usual, he says…
“The wrist and thumb are nothing, it is the ligament damage on the ankle which will take some time. Since I got home, I’ve been arranging meetings and we have a test scheduled at the end of November, which I’m using as a focus.
“Obviously, I am not going to be fully fit but it will be nice to get back on a bike before the end of the year and give some direction to the team as to what they need to do over the winter.
“It will be year two with the same crew and a proper structure in place. I am happy with my guys and the things that have gone wrong haven’t been anyone’s fault it’s been down to structure. Next year we will have full-time staff, including Jack Valentine, and all in the same workshop.
“It has all been proven to win. We should have won the championship so we are not a million miles away and a second year refining that and the bike, with a proper test programme, should be better again without having to change a lot of stuff.”