25 July 2016 Haslam targets the Suzuka 8 Hour podium

Leon Haslam comes from a great racing background. His father, Ron, gained three world titles and competed at the highest level in Grand Prix, at the Isle of Man and in the demanding world of Endurance racing placing second at the Suzuka 8 Hours of 1979. 
 
Now Leon returns to Suzuka as part of Team Green Kawasaki to see if the Haslam family name can once more be mentioned in the rostrum places after already being part of a winning team on two previous occasions himself. 
 
Here are Leon’s thoughts about the upcoming race which looks set to have many Kawasaki teams competing including Team SRC and Bolliger Kawasaki among them: 
 
Testing for Suzuka:
 
“The team has done some good testing so far. A few days at a track called Okayama which is west of the Kawasaki’s Akashi factory and at the Suzuka circuit itself which lays to the east and is close enough for many people from the factory to come and see the race.
 
I got used to the Ninja ZX-10R we will race quite quickly even though it is different to the British Superbike ZX-10R I am riding in the UK this year for the JG Speedfit team. The Suzuka 8 Hour bike is amazing; it has a full electronic rider aid package with traction control, anti-wheelie, an auto-blipper so you don’t have to use the clutch. The other big factor is that for this race we use Bridgestone tyres so I have had to get dialled in to those again as we use a different manufacturer tyre in the UK.
 
In terms of the general approach I was really surprised at how fast the Ninja was compared to many famous other teams, manufacturers and fellow competitors plus, as I said, just how good the electronic package is.
 
We have more work to do before the race but this is mainly fine tuning after gathering all the testing data we have created among the three riders in the team. We are mostly requesting the same things from the Kawasaki race engineers in terms of machine set up and changes to the electronics. My team mates and the support staff from Kawasaki are working really hard.
 
From a competitive point of view –and having tested the bike extensively – I think there is no reason why we cannot challenge for the top step of the podium at Suzuka. I am confident we can fight for the top places and a win is possible I think. It would be a great personal achievement for me so that is what I am aiming for.”
 
The Suzuka 8 Hour race:
 
“The Suzuka 8 is such a prestigious race. I am so proud to be invited to ride for Kawasaki alongside such famous and experienced team mates. I’ve competed before with another manufacturer and I am happy to say I’ve ridden in the winning team twice already so I have good experience of the race. In fact I am the only English rider to win the race twice; that was in 2013 and 2014.
 
The main difference between Superbike racing and the Suzuka 8 Hour is this is less reliant on one person. It is much more of a team effort. I have two team mates Akira Yanagawa and Kazuki Watanabe who will share the riding
 
It’s a punishing race. Just one hour around Suzuka with the heat, the humidity and the sheer pace that the event is run at certainly takes its toll on your body.
 
I enjoy training anyway so all during the year I train really hard but, for this one event, you have to change your approach physically and mentally. Your diet changes and you also have a full team of people looking after you and making sure you can perform at the top level of Endurance racing.
 
The challenge excites me and I take it seriously. Before and during the race I drink water as often as I can and take nutritional supplements. We always get weighed before and after riding sessions and from my previous Suzuka experience I am expecting some dramatic changes to my body across the race.
 
At the 2014 Suzuka 8 Hours I drank a massive 8 litres of water and electrolyte drinks across the day and still lost 5 kilos in weight due to the heat and exertion. Even during testing I lost 3 kilos and I drank a total of 25 litres of water. That means you have to monitor your intake, to know your body so you are fully fit and alert over 8 hours of competition.
 
Overall I am looking forward to the 2016 Suzuka 8 Hour with Kawasaki and with such a strong team and experienced team mates. We have a realistic chance of success and, when the race is over, I hope all three of us will be walking towards the podium steps.”