Leon Haslam returned to the WorldSBK crucible at Motorland Aragon yesterday, after Ninja-ing has way to the 2018 BSB championship title, and found some familiar things, and many different things - the most crucial being electronics.
“It is kind of what I remember,” he told bikesportnews.com, before modifying his thoughts a little. “It is very different, how you have to ride the bike, how you have to manage the bike in the garage - as far as you need certain things to be working even to be able to ride the bike rather than the bike riding you.
“Coming from no electronics, no traction control, no anti-wheelie, and managing everything myself with my hand… all I was looking for in England was a bike that was connected. I could set the bike up chassis wise to do the rest. Having a stable bike was key to doing that. With this bike, the electronics are a big, big factor.
“It will only accelerate when it has got grip, will only accelerate at certain angles, so how you approach that corner. It kind of leads you into a false sense of security, as such. You can open the throttle wherever you want, but it does not necessarily mean it is the fast way, or you will go forward. It is understanding that – and I kind of know what I am doing wrong - I know where we are struggling.
“We are chipping away at it but it is sitting down with the guys to make small changes electronically, chassis wise. And the biggest thing that affects it is me. How I ride the electronics and how I brake. Not braking like I have been in the UK; braking more in the way Johnny does really, really helps the electronics. Little things like that are a key point that I already knew, but I have to put it into practice and that is kind of where we are on day one.”
So is it a case in WorldSBK of riding with as little electronic intervention as possible?
“It is riding in a way to let the bike do its job,” said LHaslam. “Rather than riding in a way that makes the system work really hard, and you do not go anywhere. That is the key that we have got to understand, from braking to mid-corner to where you open the gas, how you open the gas.
“Then in all that, you have to set-up up to be right. There is no point riding it a certain way and it not working. You can tell them to change it a million times but until you change your riding it is not going to achieve the result. It is a combination of everything - from chassis, to electronics to the way I am riding it.”
In terms of components and pure material there have been several things to get used to at a first test. Including the one thing WorldSBK does share with BSB.
“The biggest thing is that we have totally different tyres,” said Haslam. “We are running bigger rear and bigger front profile tyres here. We did not have them in the UK at all, as we were on the old ones. How the bike reacts and turns, just the tyres alone are quite a big difference. The feel, the squash, the moveability of the tyres. There is less squash, a lot of positives from them, but how it feels is very different.”
In terms of hardware Haslam said, “Compared to my BSB bike it is Showa suspension in WorldSBK versus Öhlins, the headstock is different, the electronics completely everything, the engine character is completely different. Obviously the 2019 bike has more rpm, but generally you can tune the engine more with the electronics. In BSB you have to have a linear, low-powered engine to be rideable, without the electronics. Brakes are different, Showa suspension is very different. Brembo brakes are a higher spec here.”
After his first day back in, not without its interruptions, Haslam felt pretty good about it all.
“I feel we did well,” he stated. “We missed about three hours of the day because we had a small problem on one of the bikes and we had to change a lot of things over. But in the end we were only a tenth off of what Johnny did when he won the race here, and I felt every session we did better, had a little bit better feeling, went faster, so we will keep chipping away.”
Haslam did not waste valuable time riding the 2018 KRT bike, as he had no meaningful comparisons to draw on.
“I have gone straight to the 2019 bike,” he confirmed. “Johnny has been doing a few back-to-backs and there is obviously a few cobwebs that need ironed out with a new bike as well. I do not know the old bike so I cannot comment how it is compared to that. From my point of view it is just chipping away.”