Round 3 has drawn to a close, and there has been no shortage of drama: here's our round-up of the third stage of 2019's World Superbike Championship from the perspective of Infinity's No. 91, Leon Haslam.
The third round of the World Superbike Championship took place over the weekend at the Motorland Aragon circuit in Teruel Spain and all of us at Infinity were keen to see how our supported rider Leon Haslam got on at this picturesque venue. Leon admits:
"I’ve been having treatment and scans since the last round at Buriram for a trapped nerve in my back which I damaged during training and my back felt ten times better than it did in Thailand and the bike was quite hard to ride all that weekend as it was a physical struggle to change direction. I was happy when it was over and three fifth places were a seriously good result in the circumstances.
"I’ve also had an operation on my ankle since the last round which removed a cyst that had formed after I had a surgery in December to remove some screws that had been put in the year before after my big get off at Brands Hatch in 2017.
"Here at Aragon, I was looking for the podium again, especially after our KRT tests here over the winter were very promising.
"My last time racing here was in 2015 when I put my Aprilia on pole and finished on the podium, so I certainly have no bad memories of this place. It’s not a favourite circuit of mine as I don’t think it naturally suits my style, but the style it does suit is the style I’m trying to change to. I need to work harder on my exits. The electrics on the bike are great, but that means the bike doesn’t tell you when you’re doing it wrong. The lap times do though. I think I need to work on going in a bit slower and opening up a bit later to be faster but my natural bulldogged-ness doesn’t lend itself well to that style. I’m trying to be a little more patient and learn to understand where I can benefit from the strengths of the bike."
In the first practice, Leon and teammate Jonathon Rea were struggling in the last section of the 5.077 km (3.154 miles) circuit. They both set times that put them on top in the first three sectors but Their Kawasaki’s weren’t working as well in the last one.
It was Alvaro Bautista, the man so far unbeaten all year, who set the pace from the start at what is effectively a home round for him as he looked to capitalise on his lead in the series:
"After the first day, I was not too worried about our position in the rankings today as I was struggling a little bit. Not so much with the track but with the feeling while getting the bike stopped. It is one of those circuits where you have to be in a good smooth rhythm and at the minute I am not too confident getting the bike into the corners. It is something we are going to work on. The times are pretty close for the majority of them, around mid 1’50s, to low 1’51s. Around here, you have to be at that rhythm to be in the fight. I feel that we will be there, that is not an issue. I just have to get my confidence set, especially on corner entry."
In the Superpole qualifying the next day Alvaro set a lap time that was less than a second away from the Moto GP lap record on what is basically a production bike. Tom Sykes made a mistake in the last section when he was looking good to lower that mark by a couple of tenths on his BMW. He ended up in third with Sandro Cortese also on the front row.
The KRT teammates of Rea and Haslam ended up on the fourth row after a mix up in pit timings and some braking issues for Leon:
"We knew that the Ducati’s would be hard to beat around here as they have some good power which comes into its own on the long straights. The road going machine on which their race bike is based is a newer model than ours and their redline is set at 16350 rpm. We are limited to 14600."
At the start, it was the pole position man who made the most of the clear track in front him and he led into the first turn to lead the way on the first of the 18 laps.
Behind him, Markus Reiterberger collided with Jonathon Rea and went down immediately. Rea was untroubled by the collision and went on his way. Fortunately, everyone missed the stricken rider and the marshals were quick to sort the bike and rider out so that no stop was required.
Bautista cleared off in the early laps, setting a new lap record as he opened up a comfortable gap whilst behind him, a great four-way battle of the Brits ensued between Jonathon Rea, Chaz Davies, Alex Lowes. and Eugene Laverty Two Ducati’s a Yamaha and a Kawasaki.
Rea made up four places on the opening lap in this, his 250th WSBK race while 7 times Aragon winner Welshman Chaz Davies also made up 4.
The BMW of Tom Sykes was in the mix in the early stages along with the Yamaha of Michael Van der Mark but they weren’t able to maintain the frantic pace until races end. They were, however, able to move up a place on the last lap when Eugene Laverty just clipped Chaz Davies as they negotiated the bends before the long back straight and unfortunately was rewarded with the gravel trap.
Alvaro won by just over 15 seconds from Rea and Davies with Lowes and Sykes next up. Davies is another rider who has been struggling with offseason injuries so it was especially pleasing for him and the team to back on the podium
Leon ended up in ninth after dropping to 13th at one point. On the grid for the ten-lap sprint race the next day he revealed that the fresh stitches in his ankle had opened up during the race and he was in some discomfort for most of the journey:
"We have been struggling to get the bike to stop and I think I chose the wrong tyre for the race, the hard one. We knew that it was a good 0.6 or 0.7 per lap slower initially but I have not had the laps to do a race run on a soft one. With the temperatures being cool we did not go for it - and it looks like everyone else did. So there was a little bit of a mistake there and I think it cost me a lot. I got a real bad initial start. I think my pace after that wasn’t that bad, even though I was on the harder tyre and it was maybe enough to battle with that group fighting for fifth, that sort of area. We need to re-think things for tomorrow."
Round 3, Race 1 Results
|1.||A. Bautista (Spa)||19||ARUBA.IT Racing - Ducati||18||-|
|2.||J. Rea (GB)||1||Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK||18||+15.170|
|3.||C. Davies (GB)||7||ARUBA.IT Racing - Ducati||18||+15.650|
|4.||A. Lowes (GB)||22||Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team||18||+18.204|
|5.||T. Sykes (GB)||66||BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team||18||+20.165|
|6.||M. Van Der Mark (Ned)||60||Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team||18||+22.419|
|7.||S. Cortese (Ger)||11||GRT Yamaha WorldSBK||18||+23.333|
|8.||T. Razgatlioglu (Tur)||54||Turkish Puccetti Racing||18||+27.929|
|9.||L. Haslam (GB)||91||Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK||18||+28.243|
|10.||J. Torres (Spa)||81||Team Pedercini Racing||18||+28.411|
Standings After Round 3, Race 1
|1.||Alvaro Bautista (Spa)||ARUBA.IT Racing - Ducati||149|
|2.||Jonathan Rea (GB)||Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK||118|
|3.||Alex Lowes (GB)||Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team||82|
|4.||Michael van der Mark (Ned)||Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team||71|
|5.||Leon Haslam (GB)
||Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK
|6.||Marco Melandri (Ita)||GRT Yamaha WorldSBK||58|
The ten-lap sprint on Sunday morning has the same grid as the previous day and once again Alvaro got the holeshot at the first corner as a collision between Michael Van der Mark and Michel Ruben Rinaldi (who had qualified a career-best fifth) saw them retire on the spot while Kiyonari and Melandri lost time avoiding the melee:
"I made up three places on the first lap and my bike felt a lot better after some hard work overnight by KRT guys."
While the Aruba-supported machine of Bautista ran away once again at the front, Leon’s Kawasaki teammate Jonathon Rea quickly settled into another battle with fellow Brit’ Alex Lowes on his Pata Yamaha with the fast-closing Ducati of Chaz Davies fighting hard to get on terms with them. Halfway into the race, Leon had made up another couple of places and had the BMW of front row man Tom Sykes clearly in his sights.
Unfortunately, he ran out of time to make his move and ended 7th as Bautista enjoyed another comfortable win from the trio of Rea, Lowes and Davies who were separated by less than three-tenths of a second:
"I was just four seconds away from the podium battle and the team has done mega well from struggling yesterday morning to getting us to where I think I could challenge for the podium once again with my KRT machine. I was really positive and looking forward to the race in the afternoon. Especially as my time from the Superpole race had moved me from 12th to 7th on the grid."
When the lights went out to start the last race of the weekend it was the Ducati-mounted Spaniard who hooked up beautifully once again to lead the field away on their final 18 lap adventure of the weekend and came across the ahead of Rea and Davies after the first lap:
"I made a reasonable start and ended up in 7th at the end of the first lap. I was able to out-brake the Kawasaki of Jordi Torres at the first corner on lap two and then shortly after on the same lap Tom Sykes took his BMW wide and I didn’t need a second invitation to move up another place. KRT had worked wonders with this bike after we struggled on the first couple of days and I was really enjoying being able to fight for the podium once again."
Alessandro Delbianco was forced to come in at the end of the third lap to serve a ride through penalty for irresponsible riding in the earlier race.
Alvaro Bautista headed off into the afternoon sun while the close four-way battle behind between Rea, Lowes, Davies and Haslam provided the main entertainment for the race, though the rest of the field were covered by just 3 seconds after a third of the race.
Some excellent riding in the middle of the race from Leon saw him overtake Alex Lowes into the first turn, and then a lap later he was able to pass Jonathon Rea at the same point to stake a claim for the podium with a just over a handful of laps remaining.
Unfortunately for our hero the reigning world champion regained his composure and overtook his teammate at the first turn with three laps remaining.
With a lap and a half to go, Rea slipped briefly past Davies for second but the red machine was straight back underneath him. Half a lap later Rea showed his pace at the first turn once again and as Davies went a little wide, the man from Northern Ireland made the most of the moment and slipped past to deny Ducati their long hoped for a 1-2 finish. Leon finished just 4 tenths away from the podium:
"We have learnt a lot this weekend. We were struggling in Thailand, and even a bit in Australia. I think now, we can make a good step and start on Friday at Assen from a much higher level. Being able to battle with Jonny in the last race was great. I was a bit gutted we missed the podium but to be almost there after the weekend we’ve had? I’m really very happy. My ankle didn’t give me too much grief today either."
Round 3, Race 2 Results
|1.||A. Bautista (Spa)||19||ARUBA.IT Racing - Ducati||18||-|
|2.||J. Rea (GB)||1||Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK||18||+6.867|
|3.||C. Davies (GB)||7||ARUBA.IT Racing - Ducati||18||+7.127|
|4.||L. Haslam (GB)
||91||Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK||18||+7.581|
|5.||A. Lowes (GB)||22||Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team||18||+11.549|
|6.||E. Laverty (IRL)||50||Team Goeleven||18||+16.797|
|7.||J. Torres (Spa)||81||Team Pedercini Racing||18||+17.825|
|8.||M. Van Der Mark (Ned)||60||Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team||18||+18.788|
|9.||M. Rinaldi||21||BARNI Racing Team||18||+19.329|
|10.||S. Cortese (Ger)||11||GRT Yamaha WorldSBK||18||+20.351|
Standings After Round 3, Race 2
|1.||Alvaro Bautista (Spa)||ARUBA.IT Racing - Ducati||188|
|2.||Jonathan Rea (GB)||Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK||147|
|3.||Alex Lowes (GB)||Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team||100|
|4.||Michael van der Mark (Ned)||Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team||79|
|5.||Leon Haslam (GB)
||Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK
|6.||Marco Melandri (Ita)||GRT Yamaha WorldSBK||63|
So it’s a perfect score so far this year for the 34-year-old man from Toledo Talavera de la Reina but there are still lots of races still to be run and won.
Going into the fourth round of the championship next weekend at the in the Netherlands Leon has moved up to fifth overall just five points from fourth place.
Assen has special memories for Leon having been on the podium at the Dutch track in WSBK before and he has also achieved five British Superbike wins at the track.
On Tuesday DORNA will announce if any changes are going to be made to the allowable peak RPM to help or handicap any teams. It’ll be interesting to see how that works out for everyone.
This article was written by Keith Roissetter, Infinity Watford Store Manager, and edited by Jonah Son, Digital Marketing Executive at Infinity Motorcycles.