Smalley’s Leon Haslam has been crowned British Superbike Champion for the first time.
After finishing sixth in Saturday’s first race at Brands Hatch, which was enough to confirm the title given closest rival Jake Dixon’s failure to secure a win that would have taken the title battle to the final day, he then rounded things off by winning race two on Sunday to cap a superb season.
After the warm sunshine on Saturday, the Kent venue was met with wet and gloomy conditions on Sunday with Haslam lining up in sixth place on the grid.
Despite the treacherous conditions, no less than six riders disputed the lead and, at one stage, only a second covered the sextet.
Positions were changing regularly but Haslam ran consistently in the top three as he often disputed the lead with Honda’s Jason O’Halloran.
However, on lap 17 Haslam resumed the lead and put his head down to pull clear, eventually taking the win by two seconds from the Australian.
It was his 15th of the season and the first for Kawasaki on the GP circuit.
Fittingly, the 35-year-old started the 26th and final race of the season from pole position.
Although the weather had worsened by the time it got under way, he completed the first lap in fourth place.
As the race wore on though, Haslam had a number of ‘out the saddle’ moments and dropped back to sixth place but with the championship already won, the final race result of 2018 had no bearing on the overall outcome.
Haslam said: “It is such a crazy feeling knowing I’m British Superbike Champion; I don’t think it’s quite sunk in yet.
“The year has been incredible and my whole team have given me everything and the best bike to do the job on.
“It was really important to me to continue in the same team with the same people and I think it has made a big difference.
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“Everything just went according to plan this year and it really is an amazing feeling.
“I can’t thank everyone enough for their continued support and belief in me to make this happen. It is so special, and I’m almost lost for words.
“British Superbikes always creates great racing and all season I’ve battled with so many different riders and it is a credit to the championship. Thank you for all the memories.”
Haslam is now all set to return to World Superbikes in 2019 for what will be his third stint on the global circuit, having last appeared in the series in 2015 following a six-year spell.
Team manager Jack Valentine added: “It’s been an unbelievable weekend and I think we’ve all done an incredible job. The whole team has given everything all season and they have been rewarded by Leon becoming British Superbike Champion. So much work and dedication has gone into this year and this result is thoroughly deserved.
“It has been so good and I am so proud of Leon and all the team. We are so pleased and thank you to everyone that has supported us and to all our team sponsors. It is a great championship and we’ve had some fantastic racing this year.
“It’s great for Leon to go to World Superbikes as British Champion.”