LEON HASLAM finished in third and fifth places in Sunday’s two races of the opening round of the World Superbike Championship at Phillip Island in Australia.
Making his debut for the BMW factory team, Haslam started from the front row of the grid after qualifying in fourth place and rode a tough opening race to take third place for a fourth podium finish from the last five races at the coastal circuit near Melbourne.
The 27-year-old from Smalley held fourth place in the early stages before battling for third place with Yamaha’s Marco Melandri for most of the race, eventually passing the Italian with four of the 22 laps to go to guarantee third.
After another good start Haslam led the second race in the early stages before eventual double race winner Carlos Checa took control leaving Haslam, last year’s World Championship runner-up, in fifth place.
Haslam’s performance leaves him in third place in the World Championship heading into his home race at Donington Park on March 25-27.
Haslam reflected: “I have to thank my team, they did a superb job after we were only 14th fastest in the tests earlier in the week.
“We made improvements to the electronics and the chassis during the weekend and they found settings that helped us to a solid start to the year.
“We know we have a lot more work to do but that was always going to be the case and I’m now looking forward to a test at Jerez in Spain in a couple of weeks and also to my home round at Donington Park in a month’s time.’
World Championship points after one of 13 rounds: 1 Checa 50, 2 Biaggi 40, 3 Haslam and Melandri 27, 5 Fabrizio 18, 6 Rea 17, 7 Haga 16, 8 Sykes 15, 9 Laverty and Smrz 14.
Manufacturers points: 1 Ducati 50, 2 Aprilia 40, 3 Yamaha 29, 4 BMW 27, 5 Suzuki 18, 6 Honda 17, 7 Kawasaki 15.