With 2006 and 2007 British Superbike Champion Ryuichi Kiyonari now departed to World Superbikes and 2007 runner-up Jonathan Rea following him to the Hannpsree team in World Supersport, you’d be fairly sensible to place a bet on Leon Haslam’s chances for 2008.
The 24-year-old now heads in to his fourth full season in British Superbikes where he is aiming to be the next rider to secure the championship for the HM Plant Honda team.
When asked if he thinks he’s odd on to take the title this year, Haslam simply replies: “I hope so!”
The 2004 British Superbike rookie of the year has never been far from the top of the championship with a third last year, second in 2006 and fourth in 2005.
Four wins in 2007, including a first double victory of his career at his home circuit of Donington Park were not enough to place him higher than third at the end of the season.
The final top step in the championship rankings has always eluded him, but this year he’s more hopeful than ever that he can get that success with new team-mate Cal Crutchlow.
“I’ve had a good three years which has taken the championship to the last round but we need to bring this championship back to England. We need to win as many races as possible so to be doing it with Honda is great,” says Haslam.
“Cal is an awesome rider, he’s proven it in supersport. Last year I had some fantastic rides and with the knowledge that’s here at Honda in the team I think it’s going to progress. Hopefully we will be one-two but hopefully I can just pip him.”
Moving to a new team is always a big challenge, especially as Haslam had been at Airwaves Ducati for three seasons.
But to him moving to Honda is like going home as he won the British Supersport title with them plus there’s also the fact that his dad, Ron, runs the race school at Donington Park.
“I have been waiting to get back to Honda for a long time. HM Plant Honda can give me the package and we have been quickest at the tests.
“I’m finally back. Honda was the first company that gave me my opportunity in racing. I’m over the moon to be back with them, it’s something I’ve wanted to do.
“Being with my old team for three years you get to know everyone so I was worried about the transition but on the fist day everyone was getting on with what they needed to get on with.
It’s no secret that the Derby rider is keen to make the move into World Superbikes in the near future and he is planning to ride in some of the 2007 races in order to put himself in the shop window.
Haslam adds: “I do want to move on to the world scene so I’m doing a couple of world rounds as well so to do that I have got to win some races.
“I feel good even before we get to Brands Hatch, I’m raring to go and after five months of not riding a bike I’m just itching to go and race now.”