Haslam seeks first win at Mondello

LEON HASLAM is out to slash team-mate Gregorio Lavilla’s British Superbike Championship lead by claiming his first win of the season at Mondello Park this weekend.

Haslam lies second in the standings, 61 points adrift of Airwaves Ducati colleague and reigning champion Lavilla, and is yet to win this season despite several promising showings.

He has scored six podium finishes in eight attempts but Lavilla’s four consecutive wins heading to Ireland have thwarted Haslam’s dreams of victory.

With the fastest bike on the grid, both Airwaves Ducati riders can expect to be fighting at the front at Mondello Park and Haslam aims to beat Lavilla for just the second time this season.

He said: “My priority is to strengthen my position in the championship and hopefully get that elusive win. I am feeling confident for Mondello as Gregorio and I achieved our first one-two of the season here last year.”

Qualifying is the one area where Haslam has been equal to Lavilla this season, with two pole positions apiece, but the Spaniard hopes to seize the upper hand in that battle too.

Meanwhile Valentino Rossi is hoping for a change of luck in this weekend’s French Grand Prix at Le Mans, confessing his world title defence is in a critical condition. The Camel Yamaha rider is 32 points adrift of early leader Nicky Hayden after a dreadful start to his challenge for a sixth consecutive title.

Rossi admits the series’ return to Europe must herald a return to form if he is to retain his crown after his worst start to a season since his MotoGP debut back in 2000.

He said: “China was the second time in the first four races that we have scored virtually zero points and on both occasions it hasn’t been our fault. Luck has definitely not been on our side but the most important thing now is to sort our problems out as soon as possible because we have a run of important races coming up – starting at Le Mans.”

For the first time in his MotoGP career, Rossi is faced with a new wave of talent looking to dethrone him. At 27, he is a generation older than young guns Hayden, Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner but he is confident Yamaha can rise to the Honda challenge.

He added: “We are up against good riders on good machinery and we have to be at our maximum level to be able to beat them.

“I am already a few points behind the leader but the championship is very long, I have a lot of confidence in my team and we have time to put things right.”

One of the other old hands in the championship battle, Ducati Marlboro’s Loris Capirossi, is predicting a close race for round five of the most open championships in over a decade. “It’s going to be exciting because the championship is very tight, there are a lot of riders close on points and a lot of fast new riders.”

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