Leon Haslam will make a full-time return to the World Superbike Championship next season after signing for Kawasaki Racing Team. The 35-year-old, who currently leads the British Superbike Championship for JG Speedfit Kawasaki, will replace Tom Sykes in the title-winning Provec squad, partnering Jonathan Rea.
Haslam has previously taken five WorldSBK race victories across spells with Suzuki, BMW, Honda and Aprilia but has enjoyed a successful recent relationship with Kawasaki which has seen him challenge for BSB honours while also representing Team Green at the Suzuka 8 Hour, something he will also do alongside Rea this weekend.
Ahead of his WorldSBK return next year, Haslam has thanked Kawasaki for their faith in him and hopes to arrive with the British title under his belt.
“I have to say a big thanks to Kawasaki for this opportunity. Returning to the World Superbike Championship is something I’m really looking forward to. After scoring race wins, lap records, pole positions and a championship runner-up position in my seven years there it’s going to be great to get back to WorldSBK. The support of Kawasaki throughout my three years in the British Superbike Championship and via KHI at the Suzuka 8-Hour race has been exceptional. The like-minded approach from Kawasaki UK and KHI in Japan has been really appreciated and I’m now hoping to repay them with the 2018 British Superbike title and then to challenge for next year’s WorldSBK Championship. The 2019 season will throw up some new challenges as the competitiveness between the manufacturers continues to be at the highest level but I’m confident that with the professional and successful team behind me we can enjoy plenty of success.”
After seeing Tom Sykes’ spell with KRT end in acrimonious and bitter circumstances, Team Manager Guim Roda believes Haslam is the ideal choice to partner Rea.
“It’s understandably tough to replace a rider of Tom’s quality and the final decision to sign Leon for 2019 was made after considering many factors, some obvious and others to answer internal team factors. There’s a complex sporting strategy behind this decision, and to satisfy our team goals we felt that Leon was the best possible rider for the job. Rumours and speculation have filled many of the last weeks and we are happy to finally confirm Leon as the KRT choice. KHI knows, I know, he knows, and crew chief Marcel Duinker knows that he takes onto his shoulders a big responsibility and, at 35 years of age, to get this opportunity is his best chance to prove he still has something extra to contribute. We have a clear idea where to find this contribution and I’m personally motivated to use his experience matched to ours to try to make a stronger package that nobody has yet witnessed from Leon. As we say in KRT… “Results are the greatest evidence of endeavour”.