After running with the podium pack for much of WorldSBK race one at Imola, Leon Haslam had to settle for fifth place, despite being very close to a podiumat the end.
He found himself unable to stop as he planned, making any attempted passes too tricky and risky at the Italian track.
“It is just frustrating because all weekend I have been struggling to stop the bike,” Haslam told bikesportnes.com. “It is something I had been struggling with in Aragon.
“We solved the problem overnight there for the final race. We went from struggling all weekend to finishing eighth to fighting for the podium. It was just an engine braking strategy change and we went one second faster from race one to race two straightaway. Hopefully we can have that same improvement for tomorrow.”
No such luck for Haslam in race one at Imola. “We thought we had made a step this morning but in the race, even though I bridged a two-second gap on both Mikey and Toprak when I ran off at Variante Alta, I can’t pass and that has been my biggest issue, to be honest with you.
“Something we need to look at, and analyzing the data to Johnny. He is stopping the bike much, much better than me. I have been trying to adapt my style a little bit to brake earlier, to help the way the engine brake works. At the minute we have not found a good way.
“The pace is good, it should have been enough for a podium, but I cannot get on the podium if I cannot pass people!”
Haslam got more specific when asked if it was back-end push via the engine.
More so when I lift the rear and it lands I get a big surge of power and then I am locking the front,” said Haslam. “So even when I brake earlier than everyone else, if they are directly in front of me, I nearly hit them.
“This is what is a little scary when following. When there is a big gap I can manage it all the way through the corner but when they are directly in front of me it is quite scary, as I nearly hit them. This was my only problem.”
In terms of pace Haslam was as on it as any other podium contenders, albeit well behind Rea and Bautista like the rest. Toprak Razgatlioglu, who pipped both Michael van der Mark and Haslam to the race one third spot, was nearly 20 seconds behind Rea – Haslam just over 20.
The fight for third was stunningly close and exciting, with just 0.8 seconds separating the three hopefuls.
“I did a 1’37.1 on lap 17 so I am happy with my pace as I was one of the fastest guys in track. But it is frustrating to only be fifth when in my opinion we should have been on the podium.”
Haslam knows he should have a great podium score than he has now, but claims there is no pressure on him.
No real pressure, we are consistent and there for the podium. I qualified just behind the two Ducatis and Jonathan. But for me it is a big learning curve on this bike, I am really having to change my riding style and at this track it is pretty much 90 per cent of the corners I am trying to adapt. Other tracks it is 50/50, so I have some strong points. At this circuit I have had to work very hard. I am happy with the pace.”
So way did Jonathan manage to beat Bautista and Ducati here, as they have been so dominant so far? Haslam has some ideas.
“Lots of chicanes, lots of changes of direction here, very physical,” said Haslam as a starting point. “Jonathan won here on the Honda, which I think says everything. The style of him is very, very good here.
“I remember when we were team-mates with Honda they way he managed corner entries and managed the wheelie was something in the area that I am trying to work with, as he is very strong in this area. Chaz had a very good pace and Chaz and Jonathan always win here.
“It is a shame because I think it would be a very good battle between those two guys. Alvaro has been struggling most of the weekend, because maybe it is a bit more physical or circuit knowledge, I don’t know. It is clear that they still have a big advantage in the straights.
“In the first sector they are 0.2 seconds faster every lap as there is just one chicane. In the other places I think Jonathan is making the difference.”