Take one racing legend with a passion for bikes, add in a sprinkling of Derbyshire hospitality and you’ve got the formula for the world’s most successful race school
he racers are the school’s more tangible success stories. “We had Sam and Alex Lowes (Moto2 and WSB) as youngsters begging us for laps,” says Chief Instructor Adrian Clarke. “It was just playtime for them, but at that age it’s vital track-time. ‘Can we make you a drink Ady? Can we do anything to help?’ all so we’d give them track time. They loved it. And look where they are now: a World Supersport champion and British Superbike champion.” The Haslams are even responsible for giving a young lad called Jonathan Rea his very first taste of two wheels, now he’s a reigning World Superbike champion, and Cal Crutchlow scratched around on the school’s CB500s before becoming World Supersport champion and a MotoGP superstar.
“We’ve also had some pretty big name instructors too,” Clarke continues, “British championship riders and even a few champions: Steve Plater, Michael Rutter, Glen Richards, Matt Llewellyn, Karl Harris, Guy Martin, Billy McConnell, Steve Patrickson, Steve Sawford, Mark Phillips... And of course we continue that today with help from riders like BSB stars Taylor Mackenzie and James Westmoreland.”
Yet the school’s greatest racing achievement is possibly the one closest to home, Ron and Ann’s son: GP, WSB and BSB star Leon Haslam. Growing up with the school saw a 13-year-old Leon at the bars of a CB500 lapping Donington with his dad perched on the pillion giving the youngster direct one-to-one instruction. “I loved teaching Leon, but then I love teaching full stop. It’s always best to be out on track with someone when you’re helping them. I hear about some schools sending their riders out while the instructors watch from the sidelines, but I always prefer to be riding with them. I even toyed with the idea of creating a bike where the pupil could steer from the front, and then I’d have control of the throttle and brake from the pillion seat. That way I could show them exactly what I was doing and tell them why. Everyone has the potential to learn, and it’s my job to make it understandable – if I see someone’s not getting it, I’ll just explain it in a different way. I wish there’d been race schools when I was starting out, I would’ve saved myself a lot of painful, unnecessary crashes!”
With Leon having grown up at the school, it seems almost natural that one day he might pick up the reins from his father and continue the school’s success. “When the day comes that I get too old to do the school, says Ron – who hardly looks a day over 40 never mind a few months off 60, and certainly rides like he’s still in his 20s - “I’d love it if Leon were to continue it. He’s known it his whole life.”
On cue, Leon streaks past the pit wall, a blur of red, white and blue on a brand new Fireblade in road trim, scrubbing in a pair of the school’s Bridgestone T30 sports-touring tyres. He drifts it into Redgate before disappearing off down Craner Curves. “That’s a 1.37 lap!” an amazed pitwall punter says to his mate, pointing at his iPhone. “That’s 25 seconds faster than you! Amazing!”
Instantly Ron becomes distracted, looking for where he left his helmet, itching to join his son on track. “Bikes have been my life,” says Ron as he locks eyes with the pharaoh, a permanent fixture on his helmet for most of his career, painted on the back of his Arai. “All I’ve done with the school is to try and help people get the same enjoyment out of bikes as they’ve given me – to share that experience of how brilliant bikes are. That’s what I based the school on – just about sharing the enjoyment that I’ve been lucky enough to have. That still is the main aim, to get people to come away from a day on track with a big smile on their face.”
Excusing himself, Ron makes a beeline towards his helmet, fires up a Blade, then beckons one of the school’s guests, who climbs aboard the pillion and takes tight hold of the tank-mounted grab handle. Two minutes later we see them again, powering down Donington’s start/finish straight, the Fireblade on its back wheel, Ron and his pillion clearly having the time of their lives.
“No other racer could do it,” says Chief Instructor Adrian, who’s joined us to watch the show from pit wall. “No-one else I can think of would have the mass appeal, the way with people, the patience and the pure love of bikes, riding and helping people improve as Ron has. Maybe Barry Sheene... but no one ticks all the boxes like Ron does.”
Ron’s top riding tips
Whether it’s on the road or track, these will help you ride as smooth and as swift as the Rocket
“The quickest way to turn a bike is on a closed throttle, so shut the gas, turn, use the momentum to get you to the middle of a corner, then smoothly pick up the throttle. That way you won’t run wide on the exit,” Ron says.
“Get your corner exit sorted first – look at where you want to be leaving the corner as you’re going into it – this will help you see where you should turn and also your line through a bend.”
Now learn from Ron himself…
- On Track courses (CBR125s/300s for riders aged 12-14), or CBR500s for older riders. Guided track session and dedicated machine control exercises in the paddock. £199
- Premier course uses Honda’s CBR600RR with ABS and is the perfect introduction to track riding, detailing body position, braking, turning and line selection. £259
- Elite course offers half-a-day of one-on-one tuition using the school’s fleet of ABS equipped Fireblades. The Elite course uses datalogging to help more track-focused riders shave seconds off their lap time. £299
All bike hire, full kit if required, certificate, goody bag and the opportunity to get a pillion ride with Ron are included in the price. www.haslamraceschool.com
Words: Emma Franklin Photos: Joe Dick