Haslam forced to 250s

Published: 18 November 2001

LEON HASLAM is expected to confirm this week that he will ride in next year's world 250 championship.

The 18-year-old British rider has been forced to drop into 250s after he couldn't secure a ride in the 500 class.

After an up and down rookie season in the world 500 championship, he looked like he would be retained by the Shell Advance Honda squad to ride a production Honda NSR V-twin.

That option though disappeared when rumours started at the Rio GP earlier this month that the Shell 500 team had collapsed after negotiations with a potential Italian sponsor fell through.

Those rumours though appear to have been premature after Shell boss Jeff Hardwick said last week that he was "99 per cent certain" to be running a factory Honda NSR V4 in the combined four and two-stroke world championship next year.

Japan's Tetsuya Harada is still in contention for that ride despite initial fears that it was his high wage demands that threatened the deal in the first place.

That is of little consolation to Haslam who thought he would be retained at Shell on a V-twin. Those hopes have been scuppered by GP bosses Dorna who don't want an uncompetitive twin on the grid.

Haslam said: "It looks like I'll be riding a 250 next season. I have been told to hang on and wait for a 500 ride which is where I wanted to stay but I can't keep waiting. Honda are helping me out with a bike but I need to find a team."

"I wanted to stay in 500s but at least this gives me a chance to stay in GPs."

Shell boss Hardwick, who sacked Chris Walker midway through a torrid rookie season on the GP stage, said: "I still plan to run a Honda 500 and am 99 per cent sure it will go ahead. The only thing that might change will be the colour scheme of the bikes.

"It appears we will not be allowed to run Leon on a twin as originally planned. Dorna do not think that it would be in the interest of the series to run one lonely twin. I would like to continue with Leon but it does now look like he won't be in 500s."

However Haslam can’t step into their 250 berth as Shell Honda look set to retain Katja Poensgen.

Exactly what team Haslam will be in remains to be seen although he could find himself in the British-based Sabre Sport team. Haslam has close links with the team as Leon's dad Ron has done several tests for the them.

They were in 500s last season but team manager Martin Newnham confirmed as early as the Estoril GP in Portugal back in September that they too would drop into 250s.

Newnham said last week he was close to finalising a deal for a two-rider team but refused to reveal the identity of riders or bikes until everything was definitely in place.