Leon Haslam and the JG Speedfit Kawasaki team reignited their MCE British Superbike Championship challenge at Oulton Park with first and second place finishes reinstating the Derbyshire rider at the top of the championship table.
The changeable weather conditions at the Cheshire circuit again played a major role, particularly on Friday morning, and Haslam and team-mate Luke Mossey went into Saturday afternoon’s qualifying session in fourth and 13th overall on the time sheets.
Still recovering from his back injuries sustained at Thruxton at the beginning of August, Luke improved his time by half a second to line up in 15th for Sunday’s opening 18-lap race while Leon lapped at 1m 34.154s to qualify in a strong fifth place, only 0.2s adrift of pole position.
The first race on Sunday got underway in wet conditions to make it a more nervous affair for Leon and the five other Showdown contenders and although he dropped back to sixth at the end of the first lap, from that moment on, he advanced forward.
Indeed, by lap 10 he was holding onto a podium position and, crucially, pulling away from his rivals, his cause getting better on lucky lap 13 as he took second from John Hopkins.
It looked like second would be the outcome but long-time race leader Dan Linfoot went out on lap 14 with a technical issue with the race subsequently red flagged. It meant Leon bagged his 30th BSB race win and also took over the championship lead but there was disappointment on the other side of the garage as Luke was forced to retire on the fourth lap.
With his back injuries continuing to be troublesome, he opted out of the second race with caution taking over from valour.
Starting the second race from the more advanced position of second and the middle of the front row, Leon made it count from the moment the lights turned green as he grabbed the holeshot although he was third by the end of the lap as Jake Dixon and Linfoot moved ahead.
From that moment on, there was little to choose between the leading riders with less than a second covering the leading quartet for much of the race.
Leon consistently ran inside the top three though and by half race distance, he was back in the lead. He looked on course to take a superb double victory but Linfoot, keen to make up for his earlier disappointment, went through at Hizzy’s chicane on the final lap and although Leon tried to find a way past at the final corner, he had to settle for second.
Nevertheless, with 45 points from the two races, he scored considerably more than his Showdown rivals and the results mean he now leads the series on 571 points, 23 points clear of second-placed rider Josh Brookes.
Haslam said: “Race one was difficult; I got off to a good start but then pretty much everyone came past me! After that I felt like I got into quite a good rhythm and I managed to catch up with Shakey and Josh. At that point, I was hoping for third or fourth place but then I caught up with Dan and John and in the end I was gifted the win so it was an unexpected but really important victory for us.
“In race two I had to keep telling myself to keep pushing especially when Brad Ray was nipping at my heels for the last few laps! Even though the conditions weren’t great in race one or race two because of the wet patches, I felt like I rode really well.
“Big thanks to everyone at JG Speedfit Kawasaki – we did what we needed to do and, although it was frustrating not to win the second race after coming so close, at least we can move on to the next round with smiles on our faces!
“I’m looking forward to Assen; it can be very weather dependent and its cold this time of year but we managed a double win there last year so we know that the potential of the bike is good. However, there are so many people in the Showdown challenging for a place on the podium that anything can happen but that’s what makes it so exciting this year!”
Mossey said: “It’s been another tough weekend. I wanted to ride to keep my bike fitness and reactions on point and practice was ok but it once again became apparent in the qualifying session that I was struggling with change of direction on the bike and the pains in my back.
“I want to thank the team for all their help and support this weekend. I tried to alter my riding style to suit the conditions but with the opening wet race I really didn’t want to risk falling off again and put my healing process back further.
“I will be working hard to ensure I’m 100% fit for Assen and Brands Hatch, two tracks I really enjoy riding, and I really hope to end the season on a high note. Thank you to all the JG Speedfit Kawasaki team for always helping and believing in me.”
Team Manager Jack Valentine added: “With the changing weather conditions we had to work hard to find a good set-up for both the wet and the dry. It was brilliant to get back on the top step again in race one with Leon. We’ve been knocked a few times for starting the season so strong and due to misfortune, we’ve not been on the top of the podium since race one at Cadwell Park.
“Leon led for most of race two and rode a sensible and consistent race to take second place. He is cursing himself for not winning but in my eyes, he did the right thing and did a fantastic job this weekend as we must look at the bigger picture. We came to Silverstone with a six-point deficit and we leave here with a 22-point lead!
“It’s been really disappointing for Luke this weekend and he just wasn’t fit enough to be able to man-handle the Kawasaki around such a physical circuit. It would have been crazy for him to start that far back with all the spray and riders he’s not used to riding with and risk crashing again. We’ll make sure he has a strong end to the year.
“We are looking forward to a couple of weeks off now to get both riders ready for Assen.”
Championship positions after 10 rounds:
- Haslam 571pts
- Brookes 549 pts
- Byrne 548 pts
- Dixon 541 pts
- Hickman 530 pts
- O’Halloran 517 pts
- Mossey 176 pts