Team Suzuki Alstare rider Leon Haslam stormed his way to victory in the first World Superbike Championship race at Valencia today and then followed it up with a hard-fought-for fourth in the second which increased his series lead to 18 points after three rounds.
But for braking problems in race two, Haslam would have been on course for another podium and an even bigger Championship lead.
In race one, team-mate Sylvain Guintoli was forced to take to the run-off area at the end of the back straight in order to avoid Leon Camier's crash and lost several places as he regained the track. In the end, he finished ninth. In the second race - run in two parts, because of a crash and subsequent red flag - Guintoli improved his position to finish sixth.
Behind Haslam in race one was Max Biaggi (Aprilia) James Toseland (Yamaha), with Troy Corser (BMW) fourth. The second race was won by Noriyuki Haga (Ducati) with Carlos Checa (Ducati) second and Biaggi third.
"I made a reasonable start and was fourth at the end of the lap one and then just worked my way up to first by lap five. Once I was in the lead, I realised that the pace was not great and it all felt pretty easy for me. I expected that I would come under attack, but my Pit board signals showed that my lead was increasing! I kept a good pace and felt comfortable enough to ease the pace at the end.
"We made some small changes to the bike for race two - because of the hotter conditions - and managed to pass about five riders quite quickly despite not making a very good start. Then the race was stopped and we had to start again. We put a bit more preload on the front, but I began having brake problems before too long. The lever kept coming all the way back to the bar and that meant I couldn't be close to other riders and then pull out and pass them. I didn't feel confident braking and after three or four laps I was praying that the race would come to an end or that somebody in front would stop and I would get another podium. I am happy to be leading the series; delighted that I have increased the lead; and really looking forward to Assen - a circuit where I think our bike will go really well."
"I made a good start in race one and everything was going according to plan until Camier crashed right in front of me! I had to take to the run-off area to avoid hitting him or the bike and then had to do a bit of a three-point turn to get back on the track and that cost me time and places. I had fallen to 14th - from sixth - but had some good battles before finally finishing ninth.
"We didn't make any changes to the bike for race two, but the hotter temperature meant that the tyres didn't work as well as they had done in race one and I had many slides. Sixth was not so bad, but I'm not happy because I think we can do better. I feel better here than I did in Portimao because I have got my rhythm back. Now we just have to keep on progressing and improving and, with a little bit of luck, the results will come."