Leon Haslam gets Imola WorldSBK ride with BMW

Leon Haslam will fill the vacant seat at the factory BMW WorldSBK seat at Imola this weekend, following Tom Sykes' injury at Donington.

Leon Haslam, 2012 British WorldSBK. - Gold and Goose

Leon Haslam will ride for the factory BMW WorldSBK team this weekend at the Italian round in Imola.

Haslam’s late call up to BMW’s WorldSBK squad comes after Tom Sykes’ injuries sustained at Donington just over one week ago, which have prevented him from riding this weekend.

Sykes’ place in the BMW team meanwhile came as a result of the injuries sustained by Michael van der Mark at the Dutch WorldSBK round at Assen back in April. Van der Mark has ridden since his crash there, but remains unfit to return to racing.

Haslam’s return to WorldSBK action with BMW also comes amidst his 2023 BSB campaign which has seen him back on Bavarian machinery for the first time since 2012 when he was teammates with Marco Melandri in the world championship. At the most recent round, in Snetterton, Haslam finished on the podium twice, and he currently sits fifth in the overall BSB standings, 53 points behind the leader, Tommy Bridewell.

On Haslam’s upcoming fill-in appearance for BMW in Imola, Marc Bongers, BMW Motorrad Motorsport Director, said: “First of all, many thanks to Leon for being available at short notice to be with us at Imola. We know each other well from the past, where we celebrated success together, and this season he has returned to the BMW Motorrad family in BSB and is familiar with the new BMW M 1000 RR. He also has a lot of WorldSBK experience, and we are confident that he will quickly get back up to speed at Imola.”

Bongers also offered an update on the condition of Michael van der Mark. “Michael participated in a track day last week,” Bongers said, “however a return for Imola would still be too early, and we have jointly decided that he will sit out this weekend, and then we will reassess the situation."

Leon Haslam said: “It’s a fantastic opportunity. Obviously I have a lot of history with Imola. We took the championship in 2010 down to the last round at Imola. 

“I have a lot of history from this circuit and it’s fantastic to ride again for BMW Motorrad Motorsport. We are riding the BMW M 1000 RR in the UK so I’m looking forward to work with Shaun Muir and all the guys from the ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team. 

“We will see. I have no real big expectations, I just want to try to enjoy and hopefully we can get some good information and some good results.”

The eighth round of the 2023 WorldSBK season will take place at Most in the Czech Republic at the end of July, two weeks after the Imola round, and one week after the next round of British Superbikes in Brands Hatch.

This article was originally published on 10 July 2023, and updated on 11 July 2023 with the above text. The original article can be read below.

Tom Sykes has left hospital following his crash in Race 2 at the UK round of WorldSBK in Donington last weekend. 

Sykes, who was standing in at Donington for the injured Michael van der Mark in the factory BMW team, suffered 10 broken ribs and an ankle fracture.

The 2013 World Superbike Champion posted on social media last night (9 July 2023) having left hospital.

“Here we are leaving the hospital exactly one week after entering it,” Sykes’ post began. “I have so many people to thank but thankfully they all know who they are. But especially all of the medical staff from trackside at Donington, all the way to my stay through the Queens medical centre Nottingham. What an amazing job they have all done.

“I have 10 broken right ribs and three of those ribs with a double fracture so essentially 13 fractures in the right rib cage (not ideal when you enjoy laughing).

“Also a fracture to the left ankle but that doesn’t count when ribs are involved. That is essentially the first hurdle done.”

Sykes’ injuries came from a first lap high-side on the exit of Coppice in Race 2 at Donington during last week's UK WorldSBK, which also resulted in falls for Bonovo Action BMW’s Loris Baz and Aruba.it Racing Ducati’s Michael Ruben Rinaldi, both of whom will be fit to ride in this weekend’s upcoming seventh round of the 2023 WorldSBK season.

With Sykes understandably unable to ride in Imola this weekend, the question arises once more regarding who will partner Scott Redding in the factory BMW team. 

On Friday in Donington Park, Michael van der Mark spoke to the media and said that there was a chance he could make his return to racing in Imola. “I’m going to ride next week and then I will decide if I will be riding in Imola,” van der Mark said. “For sure I can ride, but I’m not going to ride just to ride, I want to be fully fit, fully competitive, because it has no meaning otherwise.”

Other options for BMW, should van der Mark be unable to ride in Imola, could include their factory Endurance World Championship riders Markus Reiterberger and Ilya Myhkalchyk, both of whom have ridden at WorldSBK level for BMW before, in Mykhalchyk’s case as recently as last year, when he replaced van der Mark in the first part of the season.

At the time of writing, no announcements have been made by BMW or the Shaun Muir Racing outfit that runs the Bavarian marque’s factory WorldSBK team regarding who will ride the second M1000RR, alongside Redding, in Imola this weekend.

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