Author: Oli Rushby Photos: Gold & Goose Posted: 28 Jan 2016
Leon Haslam made his debut with the JG Speedfit Kawasaki British Superbike team in Jerez this week.
The former WSB runner-up comes back to Britain this year after eight years on the world stage with his mind firmly set on a title challenge.
Making his debut alongside team mates James Ellison and Peter Hickman, Haslam predominantly rode a hybrid version of the Kawasaki ZX-10R race bike, formed of the 2016 frame and engine and 2015 electronics.
Sharing the track with an array of World Superbike teams, Haslam did not run a transponder during the two-day test.
“For me this test has been about getting used to the Kawasaki, getting used to no traction control, no anti-wheelie and no engine braking system but it was good,” Haslam said at the track. “I tried both bikes which are on the 2016 electronics, which has fly by wire, and did a lot of work with chassis, making big changes to see what was doing what and how it felt.
“The frame and engine is 2016, the engine is in a very early state of tune so it’s quite raw but on the old 2015, throttle bodies and electronics which basically means cable and no assists for engine braking or anything. The other guys were working on the throttle bodies and got the engine braking a lot better (I tried both bikes) but still have to work a bit on the power delivery.
“These first days are hard as everyone is wanting to go fast but we have time and I’m pretty happy with the pace we did in the end. On Tuesday I was worried that the drop of the tyre was quite bad and my lap time wasn’t amazing but by Wednesday we got down to a reasonable lap time for where we are.”
The ZX-10R in British Superbike-spec is very different to the full-fat WSB bikes Haslam is used to. Teams in BSB are limited in terms of what they can tune and there are no electronic rider aids.
“The BSB bike is quite different to a World Superbike, even the Kawasakis of Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes. There are quite a lot of differences when you haven’t got the traction control and fly by wire, anti-wheelie and all that stuff. You have to set it up quite differently to make it go round the track.
“When I was in BSB before, in the Airwaves years, the electronics were phenomenal. I still hold lap records from nearly nine years ago, so the electronics have definitely levelled the field but have maybe taken a step back. My Ducati back then was only 170bhp now we’re kicking out over 210. The power is more, the development of engines, frames and even the tyres have come on a lot. It’s about an overall package and the 2016 Kawasaki looks a real strong package. We’ve got another ten days of testing before the first round so we’re pretty happy with the first few days.”
Haslam and the JG Speedfit team now move to Aragon for a further two days’ testing alongside the WSB team before two further Spanish tests in March.