The wrong way for Leon Haslam: Drive like Johnny Rea

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Leon Haslam and Jonathan Rea were team-mates in the Superbike World Championship for three years, first with Honda, then with Kawasaki. In the third part of the great career review, Haslam describes his memories.

With six World Championship titles, 112 wins and 215 podiums, Jonathan Rea has long since risen above all other Superbike stars whose achievements we have been able to admire since 1988.

Since joining Kawasaki in 2015, the Northern Irishman has been unbeaten for six years in a row. It was not until 2021 that Yamaha star Toprak Razgatlioglu was able to steal the number 1 from him. In his previous six years with Honda, Rea had a remarkable 42 podium positions and 13 wins, but in the overall standings he never got above 3rd place in 2014. What hardly anyone knows: Already in 2008 Johnny Rea was rookie supersport runner-up world champion!

In 2013 and 2014, Rea had Englishman Leon Haslam as a team-mate at Pata Honda, and in 2019 their paths crossed again in the Kawasaki factory team.

In 2010 Haslam was runner-up behind Max Biaggi (Aprilia) in a Suzuki. With 45 podiums, including five wins, he is one of the more successful drivers in the near-series world championship. After the 2021 season and most recently two years in the Honda works team, the now 38-year-old was unable to find a competitive machine for this year and is therefore returning to the British championship, which he won with Kawasaki in 2018.

“Jonathan’s style fits perfectly with the Kawasaki,” said Haslam, explaining the success of the record world champion in a personal conversation with SPEEDWEEK.com. «He drives very aggressively and is very fast from the first lap in the first free practice session. The way he turns and brakes – this bike is made for him. Alex Lowes finished third in the 2019 World Championship on the Yamaha and is now sharing the pits with him. I see his problems and I can tell you it’s not his fault. You have to understand exactly how to ride this motorcycle and realize its potential. That is what it is ultimately about. The differences are very small. In 2019, I was sometimes only one or two tenths of a second slower per lap than Jonathan. But that was the difference between winning and fifth place. It’s not just about the motorcycle, but also about how the crew tailors it to the rider. Then it clicks with one, but not with the other. “

Haslam captured podium places for the six manufacturers Aprilia, BMW, Ducati, Honda, Kawasaki and Suzuki, something no other driver achieved.

Regardless of the results, Leon rates the Kawasaki as “the best package” of his career. “It worked everywhere, the team worked in its window, and Johnny won. When I figured out how to ride the Kawasaki, I was quick too. The hardest thing for me at the time was that the three years before I drove without electronics in the BSB. I had the same material as Johnny but had to ride the bike in a certain way. I tried to adapt my style. So it was impossible for me to beat him. For that I would have had to adapt the bike to my style. Whenever I tested this track before a race, I made it onto the podium. It would have taken me a second year to turn this knowledge into a successful championship. But I didn’t get this chance. “

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