After three years away it was not an easy WorldSBK return for Leon Haslam at Laguna, but he had a secret weapon in his arsenal to allow him to finish fifth in Friday qualifying – Kawasaki team-mate Jonathan Rea.
Haslam found his return to Laguna, including the infamous Corkscrew corner, a bit of an eye-bulger, but it all worked out well as he finished fifth after two free practice sessions.
“FP1 was strange because although it has only been three years since I was here, going down The Corkscrew for the first time, it felt like a whole new track again,” said Haslam who was only tenth in FP1. “We made a good step from FP1 to FP2.
“We spent a lot of time evaluating different tyres; both front and rear. I did not get the chance to use the tyre that both Jonathan and Alvaro used at the end, which they both found some time with, so hopefully we can try that option tomorrow.
It is step-by-step at the moment and until the last few minutes of FP2 we were only a tenth off the top, so it is looking a bit better.”
Rea had helped Haslam get up to pace early, at what is a unique circuit, full of traps for any errant rider, especially one who has not been there for some time and only half remembers it.
“Laguna is a unique circuit and it is a bit of a specialist circuit,” said Haslam. “Certain riders go really well here, because they have the natural flow of what needs to happen here. I have never seemed to have that natural flow here so from the very first of arrival Jonathanhas been helping me out a lot and was quick from the get go. That has helped me a little bit, just so I understand where I need to out the bike. We have made a big step from this morning. “
Rea also admitted he was helping his 2019 team-mate, working with Leon a bit more than normal.
“Yes and there is such a good atmosphere in the team,” said Rea. “I feel like Leon and I worked together to improve the bike, instead of working in two different ways, because he is a competitor.
We understand the benchmark now is Ducati and we need to improve, improve the bike. To do that together is good. He is very respectful and the general feedback on the bike is quite similar. He has not been here for quite a few years, after being in BSB, so we went this morning together and it seemed like every time we were in the garage together we decided to ride all day together, pretty much.
“I hope because I had a good feeling directly I feel like I was able to help him a little bit on track as a reference and get him up to speed. This is a difficult track with a lot of blind corners. And there are some areas where you need to learn some secrets.
“Even Fabien (Foret, Rea’s riding coach) has been passing on some info. I feel really good with him and I hope he can do a good job. Obviously not too good – I need to beat him! But it would be nice to put him in the middle with the other guys as well.”