News 4 Oct 2016

Haslam keeps BSB title hopes alive with Assen clean-sweep

O'Halloran scores yet another podium in the Netherlands.

Source: Supplied.

Source: Supplied.

Leon Haslam is ready to take the MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship title fight down to the wire at Brands Hatch in two weeks’ time after the JG Speedfit Kawasaki rider scored a double victory at Assen to move to within 17 points of Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne.

In an incredible opening race Haslam beat his MCE BSB rival Byrne to the finish line by just 0.010s in a hard-fought contest which opened the penultimate round of the season at Assen.

At the start of the race James Ellison initially led the pack from pole-sitter Byrne with Luke Mossey, Jason O’Halloran and Haslam all in close contention. Mossey was instantly on the move and the young contender dived through ahead of Ellison to lead midway through the opening lap, but as they crossed the line he had repaid the move to regain the position.

By lap three Mossey was leading the field from Ellison and Byrne, but the pair were pushing him hard and both went for a move within three corners a few laps later to push him back into third place. Byrne then was hounding Ellison and made a decisive move on lap seven to take the advantage.

Byrne led the pack as they streamed across the line to start the eighth lap, but Haslam was then the rider moving through the field as he first attacked Mossey and then moved second with a dive on his team-mate.

By lap 10 Byrne and Haslam were dicing intensely for the advantage, Haslam hit the front of the front of the pack with Ellison making it a JG Speedfit Kawasaki 1-2 as they pushed Byrne back into third place.

Ellison then traded blows with his teammate as he made a big move on the eleventh lap to lead the field, but Haslam fought back to lead with a move at the chicane. A lap later and Byrne was ready for retaliation he moved around the outside of Ellison and then made a move on Haslam at the front to move back into the lead.

On the penultimate lap though Haslam and Byrne were pushing each other all the way to the finish, with multiple passes before the JG Speedfit Kawasaki rider narrowly won the drag to the line, with Ellison completing the podium.

Haslam was determined to maintain his momentum into race two in his bid to close Byrne in the standings and keep the Be Wiser Ducati in his wheel tracks. At the start pole-sitter O’Halloran fired the Fireblade to the front of the field from Dan Linfoot, Ellison and Haslam. Meanwhile championship leader Byrne was languishing outside the top 10 in 12th place after a bad start.

Ellison was instantly attacking hard and he moved up into second to split the Honda Racing teammates. Haslam was ready to follow Ellison up the order and a lap later he also moved ahead of Linfoot as O’Halloran was forced to surrender the lead to Ellison.

Ellison’s lead was short-lived as Haslam dived ahead a lap later, only for Ellison to retaliate with a move which put him back at the front of the field. A few corners later though and the JG Speedfit Kawasaki paint-swapping continued as Ellison regained control.

Honda Racing’s O’Halloran then moved back into second on the fifth lap, with Haslam holding the lead ahead of the Australian and a chasing pack of Ellison, Linfoot, Luke Mossey and Richard Cooper.

By lap six Byrne was up to seventh and desperately trying to fight his way through the pack to regain the positions, but at the front O’Halloran retook the lead only for Haslam to instantly fire a counter attack just a few corners later but across the line the Honda Racing Fireblade was narrowly ahead.

O’Halloran was clinging onto the lead before Haslam once again hit the front with Ellison then also pushing him back a further place into third as Byrne surged up the pack to be fourth by the 14th lap.

The leading quartet was Haslam, Ellison, O’Halloran and Byrne with Linfoot, Mossey and Cooper pushing for any opportunity to make a move. O’Halloran was able to make another pass on lap 15 to split the JG Speedfit Kawasakis.

Ellison was then dropping down the order but at the front Haslam was holding off O’Halloran and an incoming Byrne who had clawed his way into contention for a podium finish and moved into third with two laps remaining.

On the penultimate lap Byrne was up to second and the last two laps came down to a fight between the pair, but the ‘Pocket Rocket’ had the edge at the finish despite the best efforts of his Be Wiser Ducati rival with O’Halloran completing the podium trio. Linfoot held fourth place ahead of Mossey and Michael Laverty who pushed Ellison back into seventh.

Of the remaining Aussies in the field, Broc Parkes (ePayMe Yamaha) went 9-9, Billy McConnell (FS-3 Racing Kawasaki) 13-17, Josh Hook (Team WD-40 Kawasaki) 19-23. In Supersport Benjamin Currie (Yamaha) finished 13th in the Sprint and fifth in the Feature races.