Tom Sykes and Kawasaki: The end of a nine-year relationship

Tuesday, 20 November 2018 09:00 GMT

We take a look back on the British riders time in green

Times are changing in the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship, as Tom Sykes prepares to embark on a new venture with BMW for 2019. After spending nine years in green with Kawasaki, the Brit was the first rider to secure a world title for the Japanese marque in 20 years and will forever remain a big piece of their history.

Starting 228 races out of his overall 259 WorldSBK races with Kawasaki, Sykes moved over to the Ninja in 2010 and it welcomed gradual progress with the ZX-10R. His first pole position came at Imola in his debut year, which was the start of a historic run. Ending the season in 14th in the championship, there was some work to be done.

The following season is when the hard work was gradually starting to show; Sykes ended 2011 with his debut win around the Nurburgring, and another pole position to his name.

Heading out with all guns blazing in 2012, Sykes and his KRT team had truly arrived and were involved in a season long battle for the title. Taking a podium finish at the first round of Phillip Island, his first win came at Monza in round four after three podium finishes. With a total of four victories, 13 podiums and nine pole positions, he heartbreakingly missed out on the title by half a point to Max Biaggi. To add salt to the wound, the half points came from the red flagged Monza race two – the same race in which he took his first win of the season.

Coming back motivated and fighting, he was crowned champion in 2013 after taking an impressive 18 podiums, nine victories and eight pole positions. With a 23 point advantage over Eugene Laverty at the season finale in Spain, all Sykes needed to do was take a podium finish around Jerez to take the title – which he did with ease. Involved in another year long battle, his strong levels of consistency and pure determination saw him take the title.

Choosing to run the number one plate in 2014, his title defense was a difficult one as he was beaten to the crown by only six points from Sylvain Guintoli on the Aprilia. Taking his overall wins tally to 22 at the end of the season, it was all change within the green team for 2015 – with Loris Baz making way for Honda’s Jonathan Rea…

From here a strong inter-team rivalry developed between Sykes and Rea, as the duo were both gunning for the crown, and Rea was competitive from the off. Contending with Rea and Ducati’s Chaz Davies in 2015, Sykes finished in third position overall as he took four victories and 15 podiums – on top of continuing his strong Superpole pace. Fighting back in 2016, he was able to secure the runner-up spot behind Rea, with stunningly consistent pace of 20 podiums and eight pole positions.

Struggling to develop the ZX-10RR to suit his riding style over the last few seasons, Sykes is never far away from the podium or the front of the pack, and an injury sustained in Portimao last season hindered the end of his 2017 campaign – leaving him in third position overall in the standings.

Winning in each of the last eight seasons, Sykes took an emotional victory this season around TT Circuit Assen as the British rider was able to pull ahead of the rest and dominate the 21 lap race. Unbeknown to him this was his last race win on the ZX-10RR but it wasn’t the end of his success.  Taking his 44th pole position at Donington Park secured him the ‘Mr Superpole’ title, with the most pole positions ever in WorldSBK, a record which will take some breaking.

Leaving Kawasaki with many records to his name, he will embark on a new venture with BMW, but his time in green with be ‘unforgettable’. 

Enjoy back some of Sykes’ highlights throughout his time with Kawasaki, as well as the latest news about his 2019 progress, all with the WorldSBK VideoPass.