Britain‘s Leon Haslam can call himself an international race winner for the first time in his career after breaking his long-awaited World Superbike victory duck at Phillip Island on Sunday.
A day after signalling his intentions with a maiden pole position during Superpole, Haslam converted it into a convincing victory in race one, while only a last gasp effort from Carlos Checa in race two prevented him from doubling up for the revitalised Suzuki Alstare team.
Celebrating his first race as a factory-supported rider in the best way possible, while Haslam led from start-to-finish, he was still made to work hard for victory after fending off race long pressure from Michel Fabrizio and Noriyuki Haga.
Indeed, his winning margin could barely have been tighter, Haslam clinching victory by a mere four thousandths of a second over Fabrizio in a photo-finish determined result.
“I am so happy to get my first WSBK win and it feels great,” he smiled. “I want to thank the team and all the staff back at the workshop for all their support and hard work and I’d also like to thank Francis and Patricia Batta for having faith in me.
“The first race was such hard work and it was impossible to relax for a second. I knew that I had Michel and Nori breathing down my neck, but I just kept concentrating on my lines and my braking points and tried to hold them off. I realised that Michel was in my wheel tracks going into the last turn and would try and use the draft to get past me, but I kept my head down and charged to the flag.
“At the end, I didn’t know if I’d won or not, but when I realised that I had, I was so unbelievably happy and it was such a fantastic feeling. All weekend I knew that a win was possible, but thinking about and it happening are two different things!”
A repeat performance appeared to be in the offing for Haslam in race two after seeming to have come out on top of in an entertaining dual between himself and team-mate Sylvain Guintoli during the closing stages. However, he had no answer to Checa, who would deny Haslam the double with a last gasp pass on the final lap of the race.
Nonetheless, Haslam wasn’t too disheartened by the outcome, maintaining that he is delighted to be leaving the opening round of the season with the championship lead in his pocket.
“In race two, I had some problems with rear traction but I still thought I could win. I had a great fight with Sylvain and when I finally got ahead of him and made it stick, I thought he might act as a buffer between me and the rest.
“Then suddenly, Carlos was there. He dived under me just three corners from the end, on the last lap. I tried to get it back, but he managed to hold me off and take the flag. But, it feels good to take a win and a second in my first race with the team and it feels fantastic to be leading the Superbike World Championship.”
Haslam’s win came at his 61st WSBK attempt, while victory for Suzuki marks its first since Max Neukirchner triumphed at Misano in 2008.
1. Leon Haslam GBR Alstare Suzuki GSX-R1000 34mins 13.435s 22 laps
2. Michel Fabrizio ITA Ducati Xerox 1198 +0.004s
3. Noriyuki Haga JPN Ducati Xerox 1198 +0.769s
4. Jonathan Rea GBR Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR +10.201s
5. Max Biaggi ITA Aprilia Alitalia Racing RSV-4 +10.782s
6. Sylvain Guintoli FRA Alstare Suzuki GSX-R1000 +11.079s
7. Carlos Checa ESP Althea Ducati 1198 +11.208s
8. Jakub Smrz CZE PATA B&G Racing Ducati 1198 +16.522s
9. Troy Corser AUS BMW Motorrad S1000RR +20.291s
10. Lorenzo Lanzi ITA DFX Ducati 1198 +26.352s
11. Leon Camier GBR Aprilia Alitalia Racing RSV-4 +29.775s
12. Max Neukirchner GER Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR +30.155s
13. Tom Sykes GBR Kawasaki SRT ZX-10R +31.951s
14. Shane Byrne GBR Althea Ducati 1198 +31.957s
15. Andrew Pitt AUS Reitwagen BMW S1000RR +55.082s
16. Vittorio Iannuzzo ITA SCI Honda CBR1000RR +1min 10.932s
17. Matteo Baiocco ITA Team Pedercini Kawasaki ZX-10R +1min 11.237s
18. Roger Lee Hayden USA Team Pedercini Kawasaki ZX-10R +1min 17.357s
19. Joshua Brookes AUS Echo-CRS Honda CBR1000RR +6 laps
20. Cal Crutchlow GBR Yamaha Sterilgarda YZF R1 5 laps completed
21. Chris Vermeulen AUS Kawasaki SRT ZX-10R 3 laps completed
22. James Toseland GBR Yamaha Sterilgarda YZF R1 2 laps completed.
1. Carlos Checa ESP Althea Ducati 1198 34mins 16.428secs 22 laps
2. Leon Haslam GBR Alstare Suzuki GSX-R1000 +0.307s
3. Michel Fabrizio ITA Ducati Xerox 1198 +0.434s
4. Sylvain Guintoli FRA Alstare Suzuki GSX-R1000 +0.837s
5. Noriyuki Haga JPN Ducati Xerox 1198 +3.453s
6. Jonathan Rea GBR Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR +11.530s
7. Troy Corser AUS BMW Motorrad S1000RR +12.068s
8. Max Biaggi ITA Aprilia Alitalia Racing RSV-4 +13.782s
9. Cal Crutchlow GBR Yamaha Sterilgarda YZF R1 +14.401s
10. James Toseland GBR Yamaha Sterilgarda YZF R1 +14.707s
11. Leon Camier GBR Aprilia Alitalia Racing RSV-4 +14.743s
12. Shane Byrne GBR Althea Ducati 1198 +14.851s
13. Lorenzo Lanzi ITA DFX Ducati 1198 +15.143s
14. Joshua Brookes AUS Echo-CRS Honda CBR1000RR +30.947s
15. Andrew Pitt AUS Reitwagen BMW S1000RR +41.866s
16. Max Neukirchner GER Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR +48.844s
17. Vittorio Iannuzzo ITA SCI Honda CBR1000RR +1min 06.888s
18. Roger Lee Hayden USA Team Pedercini Kawasaki ZX-10R +1min 07.761s
19. Matteo Baiocco ITA Team Pedercini Kawasaki ZX-10R 17 laps completed
20. Tom Sykes GBR Kawasaki SRT ZX-10R 13 laps completed
21. Chris Vermeulen AUS Kawasaki SRT ZX-10R 7 laps completed
22. Jakub Smrz CZE PATA B&G Racing Ducati 1198 6 laps completed.
1 Leon Haslam Suzuki Alstare 45
2 Michel Fabrizio Ducati Xerox 36
3 Carlos Checa Althea Ducati 34
4 Noriyuki Haga Ducati Xerox 27
5 Sylvain Guintoli Suzuki Alstare 23
= Jonathon Rea Ten Kate Honda 23
7 Max Biaggi Aprilia Racing 19
8 Troy Corser BMW 16
9 Leon Camier Aprilia Racing 10
10 Lorenzo Lanzi DFX Ducati 9
11 Jakub Smrz Guandalini Racing 8
12 Cal Crutchlow Yamaha Sterilgarda 7
13 James Toseland Yamaha Sterilgarda 6
= Shane Byrne Althea Ducati 6
15 Max Neukirchner Ten Kate Honda 4
16 Tom Sykes Kawasaki SRT 3
17 Andrew Pitt Reitwagen BMW 2
= Joshua Brookes Echo CRS Honda 2