Leon Haslam almost halved his deficit to the British Superbike Championship leader at Donington Park at the weekend, with a brace of second place finishes reducing the gap from 77.5pts to 41pts ahead of the final round.
But it could have been so much better for the ROKiT BMW Motorrad rider had he not been denied a third successive runners-up spot in the final race when his M1000RR expired in a plume of smoke with just five laps to go.
Nevertheless, it was another strong weekend for the 2018 Champion, his ride in the opening race particularly impressive as he ran an intermediate rear tyre when all those around him on track were on full wets.
“It was a very late decision with our tyre choice and at the time I would probably have gone with full inters but we knew the rain was coming,” he explained. “We only had time to change the front to a wet though so had to stick with the inter rear and as soon as the rain came, I knew we’d made a mistake – loads of riders on full wets came by me and disappeared!”
“I thought I’d made a big mistake but luckily the rain eased a bit in the middle of the race, and I was able to close back up, but it was a bit of a yo-yo effect as the rain came kept coming and going. I knew I wasn’t going to catch Ryan (Vickers) as he’d opened too big a gap to close but it was a fun race.”
“I was really happy with the bike especially on the brakes and that definitely helped us whilst it was good to make a big step in the championship with our main opposition struggling.”
The opposition included the BeerMonster Ducati duo of Glenn Irwin and Tommy Bridewell, who both failed to score, and OMG Racing Yamaha’s and Kyle Ryde who could only manage 12th and Haslam clawed more points back in Sunday’s opening race with another second place, his tenth podium of the season.
“We had good pace in the dry all weekend but were struggling a bit with tyre life and in the last sector where the Ducatis, especially, were strong. I made a little mistake towards the end which dropped me back behind Kyle and although I was able to close back in, the rain came back on and it was another second although, of course, it bridged the gap to the leaders after the Ducati boys crashed out.”
The gap after race two came down to just 33.5pts and it looked like it would come down to less than twenty when he ran in a comfortable second place behind runaway leader Jason O’Halloran in the final race. The series took another twist though when he was forced to retire but with 105pts still available at the final round, he has more than a fighting chance of lifting his second BSB title.