Jonathan Rea has paid tribute to his Kawasaki team-mate Leon Haslam after it was confirmed the 2018 British Superbike champion would leave the team at the end of this season.
Five-time World Superbike champion Rea, who is in Argentina preparing for the penultimate round of the series this weekend, said that while he was sad to see Haslam go, he was also excited to welcome a new face to the team for 2020.
“This is racing and these things happen,” said Rea.
“I’ll be excited to see who’s coming in because I’m not involved in those negotiations at all. I went to Portrush during the summer break and I spoke to my team manager about potential options and I just said that I didn’t really need to be in the loop because it’s not really my decision and I wouldn’t want to influence any decisions either.
“But with Leon, he did an awesome job as expected to be on the podium a few times and battle at the front. He’s had a few issues with injuries and whatnot and I think to be out of World Superbike and come back and be as strong as he was, is testament to how good and determined he is,” he added.
“We had been team-mates at Honda in 2012 and 2013 and he’s one of the best team players there is. We spoke on the grid in Magny-Cours about the conditions and we speak really openly about set-up with the bike and trying to take it forward together, which is something that’s really lacking now in world championship racing, where team-mates work together.
“From that point of view, it’s a little bit sad but whoever comes to the team I hope we can strike up the same kind of bond because when you go racing, it’s nice to sit down as a team and have no ill feeling around, which was something I missed in the past few years.”
Haslam, who is sixth in the championship, has finished on the rostrum in third place on six occasions this season.