The 2013 World Champion takes his first ever second place at Phillip Island
Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) had only been on the podium three times at Phillip Island before 2018 Race 1, and all of them were third places - but the Yorkshireman’s opening statement for this season seemed to pay that no heed. After a stunning lap in qualifying to go top and equal Aussie Troy Corser on 43 poles, Sykes bolted into the lead off the line and made quite a gap between himself and teammate Jonathan Rea, the man who has won five of the last six races at the Island. By the latter stages the big mover was Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati), who got past Rea and then was able to hunt down Sykes and overtake him with four to go, but the number 66 took second nevertheless - his best ever Island result.
“It’s a great start to the season, I was just saying to the guys I had a smile on my face from start to finish,” grins Sykes. “In those windy conditions I’ve always struggled, but fair play to Kawasaki and the guys, we’ve got a great package. I enjoyed the race! I knew Marco would be there at the end and I tried to break him at about two thirds distance, but he just had a bit better tyre.”
Sykes says he it was in the last five laps where he began to suffer, after reversing the normal modus operandi of racing at the Island – biding your time until a last attack - and instead keeping the pace hot from the off. “I just ran out of rear tyre with five laps to go. It’s a shame but probably down to the wind - I was using the edge of the tyre too much to finish the corners and we just overcooked it.”
Still, a best ever result at Phillip Island is a good start to the year. And, with it coming in the first race, that also makes it the Yorkshireman’s best ever start to the season – with Sykes having taken two fifths to begin his title winning campaign in 2013.
“I’m happy for second,” he reiterates, “and tomorrow we’ll try and improve. But this is the strongest start to the season for me in my career, so things are looking good.”
That they are, and Race 2 begins on Sunday at 15:00 local time (GMT +11) to see if he can do it again – or go one better.