British Superbike championship leader Leon Haslam will take a busman’s holiday this weekend when he competes in the British round of the Superbike World Championship as a wild-card rider for the Italian Puccetti Kawasaki team.
The Carole Nash-backed star lines up alongside the team’s regular rider, Swiss superbike rookie Randy Krummenacher, at his home circuit of Donington Park and, as he told Insidebikes, he’s looking forward to helping develop the team’s ZX-10RR without the stress of having to deliver a podium finish.
“There’s no pressure,” said the 33-year-old son of Grand Prix legend Ron Haslam. “The Puccetti team is new into world superbikes. They’ve got Randy, who is a top class rider, but for me it’s about exploring the potential of the bike and team and hopefully to give them a good result, which in turn will hopefully help them in the future.”
Haslam is no stranger to making one off outings on various Kawasakis. In addition to his full-time British championship commitments with the JG Speedfit Kawasaki team, last year he competed in a Japanese championship round for the Green team, was part of the official entry in the iconic Suzuka 8-Hour race, and made a wild-card appearance for the privateer Pedercini Kawasaki team in Qatar, where he stunned the paddock by finishing fifth.
This year’s programme is largely the same, except this time around his world championship outing takes place in front of his home crowd at Donington, something that the five time world superbike race winner is very much looking forward to.
He added: “From my perspective, there’s no better race than my home round at Donington. The last time I raced in the championship I have been a winner so I have enough confidence to see what we can do and see where the level is.”
Although the Puccetti squad lacks the ultimate resources of the factory Kawasaki Racing Team squad that fields Tom Sykes and Jonathan Rea, the team has access to world superbike specification engines and electronics, both of which are at a higher level than those allowed in the more tightly regulated British series.
“It’s more of a level playing field that I am riding for a world superbike team on a world superbike spec bike,” he continues. “It would be tough to do it on a British superbike spec bike. Right now the Kawasaki and Ducati factories are dominating and have had every single podium this season. It would be nice to at least be in the mix with those boys and see what we can do.
“Speed is not going to be the issue, it’s more going to be about the overall package, the electronics and chassis itself. Being based with a satellite team is good. They have good communication with Kawasaki and I believe that our starting point shouldn’t be too far away. It’s more going to be down to me, being able to set up and ride a full world superbike machine again in a short period of time.
Haslam has already had a two-day test with Puccetti in Portugal under his belt and says that he is delighted to have formed such a strong bond with the Japanese manufacturer. Having endured some tough years on an uncompetitive Honda before returning to the British championship, Leon is enjoying life winning races and fighting for championships again, but hints that he would be more than up for a return to the world stage – if the right deal comes along.
“Just to be one of the numbers in world superbike was not that appealing,” he concludes. “I always want to do well. Every year I’ve had options to be in the world championships but never an option to be competitive, in terms of the teams and packages available.
“To go and sign directly with a manufacturer, to try to win a (British) championship for them and do other work in their home country, such as the Suzuka 8-hour and Japanese national championship races, on top of getting a world championship wild-card, was more intriguing than being one of the guys finishing in the top six or seven. For now, we’ll see how this weekend goes and what comes of that.”
The British round of the Superbike World Championship takes place at Donington Park this weekend. If you can’t make it along in person, you can watch Leon in action live on Quest (Freeview channel 37, Sky channel 144) with racing from 10.30am on both Saturday and Sunday.