Even with a ninth place finish in the final race of his WorldSBK career inside the KRT camp, two earlier Losail results of fifth and fourth came after Leon Haslam finally found a set-up breakthrough, of sorts.
“We really struggled but we made some good steps and for the first time this year I felt we could actually make some passes and plan the race,” said Haslam after the first full race at Losail.
Something else helped Haslam’s cause - the bother some of his rivals were in. “The first race has come more easy to me because everybody was having problems with their front tyre. So Yamaha lost their advantage, Toprak lost his braking advantage and I could manage the problems a little bit better. But we all had similar problems with the front tyre and I managed to beat the guys I was racing with.”
Haslam did not beat the Ducati of Alvaro Bautista in race one, but nothing could beat the sheer speed of it.
“The Ducati? It is crazy,” said Haslam, laughing at his own misfortune. “It has been all year. 0.5 seconds on just one straight… I think is a lot.”
On the final day, and after two more races, Haslam said, “We struggled halfway through the last one because I lost my front traction and struggled to get it to stop. I kept losing the front, not off gas but just as I tapped the gas on. To be honest after that it felt like I was tiptoeing around the corners and when it came to a fight I had nothing to fight with, even though I was there.”
Overall, Haslam is philosophical about what turned out to be an increasingly tough year, with some falls and then electronics factors holding him back. “The season has had its ups and down and I have had a fundamental problem of trying to adapt my style to what is needed on this bike. Getting the bike stopped and battling has been one of the things I have struggled with and normally that is one of my strengths. But I have had some positive races, good battles in Australia, Misano and Aragon with Johnny. To win Suzuka this year has been fantastic. I had three good battles in the last three races of the year.”
A bit to go before the reality of Haslam staying in WorldSBK, with any team, is settled or not.
Nothing official but my heart is to be here and build on what I have learned this year coming back to the world championship,” said Haslam. “Hopefully we should know in the next week or two.”
Haslam’s name is now being linked by outside sources to lining up alongside Alvaro Bautista in the new factory Honda team. If true, then Haslam’s long experience on six different WorldSBK manufacturers’ machines – not to mention his Suzuka Eight-Hours prowess – may make him a very attractive option, even if all the available rides are filling up fast now.