With the first round of the 2011 WSBK series literally within touching distance, we bring you part two of our exclusive interview with new BMW Motorrad Motorsport rider Leon Haslam, who is looking forward to the most exciting year of his career to date
How much pressure do you feel, knowing that there are now four BMWs on the grid, rather than two?
From my point of view the level of pressure is no different. BMW have put together a great team of riders so the competition to be the best BMW will be hot for sure. Out of our four riders we have four World Superbike titles, and a Superstock Cup title so the competition is going to be fierce! The BMW Italia team is not inferior to ourselves either; they have good machinery and a high level of support from the factory. I am not going to feel like we have underachieved if they do beat us on occasions. The key thing for everyone is to develop the S 1000 RR and now we have four capable riders who can do that. Personally I will be trying to beat the person or be the person who is leading the race. That’s all I am concerned about and if I do that then I don’t need to worry about anything else.
Your dad has a reputation from working on development programmes as a racer, what are his thoughts on the S 1000 RR?
My dad loves riding; he still rides on his race school and loves riding trials bikes. He has a wealth of experience from riding so many different machines and has a reputation for being one of the best development riders in the world. He has the inept ability to relay what he is feeling on the bike into words and subsequently in actions to get what he wants. I know he’s my dad but he is one of the only people I know who has such a keen eye for settings and development. His opinion is something I really value. For example he can go out and watch from trackside and then come to me after a session and totally reiterate what I was feeling from what he saw. His feedback completely lines up with everything that both Troy and I are saying and that can only be a good thing.
What were your impressions of the Motorland Aragon circuit that you’ll be racing at in June?
It’s a great track. We didn’t have the best of tests as we were having issues with the tyres but the circuit was good. That said, we ended the test only 0.2 seconds off the time of Biaggi and given the issues we had that was a good result. Biaggi has been riding the Aprilia throughout 2010 and obviously won the championship, so to be so close to him was a good feeling. I am definitely looking forward to racing there because I know our package will be a lot stronger by that point (WSBK visits Aragon on 19 June).
It’s great for you to have two rounds in the UK. Are you looking forwards to returning to Donington again?
It’s fantastic. Racing in England is a great occasion for the British fans and for me, so I can’t wait to be back racing at Donington. The weather conditions in the UK are not always great but it’s only 20 minutes from my house and I have a lot of support in that area. I know the track like the back of my hand so I really am looking forward to being there. It’s got to be better for me than racing at another Italian circuit in Biaggi’s ‘back yard’, so that will hopefully help in my title quest this year.
You’re a keen off-road fan. Have you tried any of the BMW G 450 X or Husqvarna models yet?
I just picked a G 450 X up recently and I have been running it in on the field at home. It’s unbelievable actually, it really surprised me by how much power it has and the usability of it. I am definitely going to have a few fun days on that for sure. I have always loved riding off road and I can’t wait to get this bike run in and then really see what it can do.
There are more RRs in the British Championship this year. Just how good do you think the production bike is?
As a stock bike it has really wiped the floor with the competition, it has won championships across the globe and been the weapon of choice for many on the racing scene. The bike has a great reputation in the UK, especially having won the British Superstock championship with Jon Kirkham and the BSB-EVO championship with Steve Brogan. As a road bike it’s great, it’s one of the most powerful on the market, it has loads of electronic aids and technologies to benefit the rider and it has definitely raised the bar in terms of the competition for other manufacturers.
Are you learning German or is everyone speaking English in the team?
I was over in Germany for a couple of weeks before Christmas doing the training camp and we did have German lessons there. I am also spending a lot of my time in Italy at the moment as well so I am learning Italian as well. I have got to admit it’s all a little bit confusing at the moment learning both languages and distinguishing between the two. Still I am quite lucky in the fact that the team speaks good English. This year BMW has taken on two new mechanics on my side of the garage who are English so we have a nice blend of nationalities. Whether it’s Italian, German or English, everyone understands racing and gets on really well so the language barrier won’t be a problem I’m sure.