With round two of the British Superbike Championship rapidly approaching at
Thruxton on Sunday 10 April, the recent return of the GSE Racing Airwaves
Ducati team to competitive race action has already proved that British
racings' prodigal sons have lost none of their impressive prowess. Deprived
of the talents of proven BSB race winner James Haydon through injury,
shortly before race one of the season, adversity merely spurred on the
Airwaves Ducati team to even greater efforts at Brands Hatch on Monday 28th
March. Leon Haslam secured pole position and Haydon's stand-in, Gregorio
Lavilla, swept up a brace of podium finishes, each riding ex-factory Ducati
999F04 machinery. But for a freakish accident in race one, the 21-year-old
rider would most likely have secured at least one podium finish on his own
With time to recover before the start of qualifying at the awesomely fast
Thruxton circuit, Leon is fully primed for round two, having already shown
that his Ducati 999F04 machinery is up to the task in this most competitive
season in BSB history. An independent medical test has ruled Haydon (30) out
for the Thruxton round, much to the understandable disappointment of both
rider and team. The extreme high-speed nature of Thruxton, with many fast
and bumpy corners to contend with at an average lap speed of almost 110mph,
places particular emphasis on strength and endurance from the rider. By
necessity James, who will continue to undergo intensive restorative therapy
to be full fit for the rest of the season, will be replaced once more by the
experienced Spaniard Gregorio Lavilla. With James providing unselfish moral
support for his temporary stand-in at Brands Hatch, Lavilla secured
impressive second and third place finishes, helping propel the team and new
title sponsor Wrigley's Airwaves into the limelight of both podium
During a pre-Thruxton tour of Wrigley's Airwaves extensive manufacturing
facility near Plymouth, Leon, James and Team Manager Colin Wright, expressed
their feelings about Thruxton and beyond. Gregorio, meanwhile, made his
comments from his home country, the 30-year-old having returned there for
successful physiotherapy on his lightly injured right arm, suffered after a
pre-race warm-up crash at Brands Hatch.
Colin Wright, overseer of many a successful GSE championship campaign,
acknowledges the successes of Brands. Nonetheless, he is concentrating all
his thoughts and energies on the weekend ahead.
"I think it's clear for all to see we did have a good weekend at Brands,"
affirmed Wright, "but it also left us with the knowledge that we still have
some work to do. Obviously, we are going to put it right for Thruxton. If
you consider that Brands was our first time back in racing for over a year,
then on that basis we did a fantastic job. I would, however, never want to
walk away from a race meeting with nothing to do. At Brands, Gregorio set
out to work in a methodical way, and we prepared the bike for him with an
identical set-up to Leon's. Our main priority is now to get the bike more
suited to Gregorio himself, using the simply fantastic support we have from
Íhlins suspension. We have been very impressed by the level of
competitiveness of the Ducati 999F04 and both Leon and James accepted the
fact early on that the bike has won world championships. Ducati has put a
lot of work into the bikes we have. The real benefit for us, however, was
putting Dunlop tyres on it."
Leon was relieved to find out that he had not re-damaged a previously
troublesome ligament in his left wrist and thus approaches Thruxton full of
anticipation at the prospect of leaping the next hurdle.
"The best news is that I have not snapped the ligament in my wrist and I
have been undergoing a bit of light physio work to help make it stronger for
this weekend," said Haslam, raring to start practice at the 2.356 mile
Hampshire circuit. "I have raced at Thruxton on a 600 and some other bikes,
but this is my first time there on a Superbike. I feel really good about the
bike and the team so we should be feeling confident at any track we go to
from now on. In many ways Brands Hatch Indy was the circuit I was looking
forward to least of all. So for me to get pole position, and the team to get
podium finishes, was a big boost to our confidence."
Haydon's unquenchable racer's spirit has made the reality of his current
situation difficult to deal with, but he will nonetheless be
shoulder-to-shoulder with his team in the pit garage on race weekend,
despite not being able to ride at this juncture. "I have been undergoing
hyperbaric, laser and electro magnetic therapy since picking up my injury
but the team have understandably made me to see an independent specialist,"
said James. "He concluded that my hand isn't quite ready yet. I was hoping
to ride, and my recovery has been coming on very well, but in the face of
the medical advice I have to respect the team's decision 100%."
For Lavilla, his second meeting for the Airwaves Ducati squad in as many
weekends takes him back to a circuit he has useful prior experience of.
"Last year I rode a 1000cc four-cylinder bike there, and I was fighting
against the Ducati 999 of Sean Emmett," said Lavilla. "It seemed to be very
competitive and that should be the same for us this weekend. I want to get
the chassis set-up exactly right at Thruxton, as that was the only thing I
was not entirely happy with at Brands Hatch. I was also a little concerned
that because Thruxton is so fast we may struggle a little to keep up with
the four-cylinder bikes in the fifth and sixth gear sections. That was until
Paolo Ciabatti, from Ducati Corse, assured me that the biggest advances they
found at the end of last year's development were in this area. Now my only
concerns are to get the bike set-up even better and find a good riding
rhythm, for qualifying and the races."
Practice begins at Thruxton on Friday 8 April, with the two Superbike races
taking place on Sunday 10 April. Round Three, at Mallory Park, takes place
on 24 April.