Leon Haslam says that despite teammate Michael van der Mar putting their Musashi Honda team on provisional pole for Sunday’s Suzuka 8hr race, the Derbyshire man still has a lot of work to do to find the sort of times he wants to be running at Honda’s home track.
"We’re still playing big catch up. I didn’t do any of the official tests, and I think I’ve done around 39 laps in total, and that’s mainly been on old tyres. I’m making good progress on old stuff, but haven’t made any big jumps forwards on new rubber yet. Last year when I did a lot of testing, I felt at ease from the first session, but fingers crossed we’ll find that feeling again and it’ll all gel together for race day.”
With Haslam also making the move for the event from the one-make Pirelli tyres used in both WSB and BSB to custom designed Bridgestones – the Japanese manufacturer has designed racing tyres specifically for Suzuka – he’s also finding that he’s having to change how he rides the Honda Fireblade despite his experience on the machine in WSB.
"It’s all down to me adapting myself to this track and the Bridgestone tyres. There’s a big difference between them and the WSB Pirellis we normally use. This track suits a fast, sweeping, flowing style, not the stop and squirt style of the Pirellis.”
"I’m really looking forward to the race, though, especially after winning the race last season. The team is fantastic and the bike is really competitive. It’s just really exciting to be a part of it all once again and I can’t wait."
Haslam finished his 30 minute qualifying session with a best lap of 2:09.923, the slowest of his team, behind teammate Takumi Takahashi on 2:09.205 and van der Mark on his lap record pace 2:07.839 pole lap.