THE GOLDEN ERA CONTINUES: 2013 Champion Sykes returns to WorldSBK
After a year competing in his native Britain, Tom Sykes makes his WorldSBK return on Kawasaki machinery this season
A decade on from his sole MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship success onboard Kawasaki machinery, Tom Sykes makes a return to the Championship for 2023 after a year in Britain. Not only is it a return to WorldSBK for Sykes but it’s a return to Kawasaki machinery as he links up with the Kawasaki Puccetti Racing squad on the Kawasaki ZX-10RR machine, with Sykes riding for Manuel Puccetti’s eponymous squad.
THE RETURN OF SYKES: key stats ahead of his comeback
Sykes earned the nickname of ‘Mr. Superpole’ from his previous stint in WorldSBK and he hold the record for pole positions in WorldSBK at 51, the most recent of which came at the 2021 Catalunya Round at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. Speaking in 2021 before the WorldSBK campaign got underway, Sykes revealed some of his Tissot Superpole secrets after mastering the act of one-lap, all-out pace for the best grid position.
It isn’t just the Tissot Superpole sessions where Sykes has been rapid though with 114 podiums to his name from 349 starts, with his podium finishes spread fairly evenly: 34 wins, 38 second place finishes and 42 third-place finishes. He also has 39 fastest laps to his name ahead of his return to WorldSBK. Sykes, in his next race, will become the third rider to hit 350 race starts in WorldSBK behind only Troy Corser and Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) who are, until Rea’s next race, tied for the most race starts.
TESTING PROGRAMME: three winter tests before Australia
Sykes’ comeback got underway at the Circuito de Jerez – Angel Nieto in December when he took part in a test which was hampered by wet weather, but he returned to the circuit in January for two more days in sunny but cold conditions. A week after that, the team travelled to Portugal and the undulating Autodromo Internacional do Algarve circuit for the last test before heading to Australia for the first round of 2023.
WHAT SYKES HAS TO SAY: returning to WorldSBK, Independent team and the goals
During the Portimao test which started at the end of January, Sykes was on hand to discuss his WorldSBK return, linking up with an Independent team for the first time and his goals for the season. He said: “it’s fantastic to be back here in the WorldSBK paddock. I’ve got a lot of fantastic memories here, a lot of history, a lot of good friends. It was quite a natural step and one that I’m so far enjoying. With regards to an Independent team, I think I’m very lucky to be with Manuel and the whole of the Kawasaki Puccetti Racing team because, as far as Independent teams go, they’re certainly one of the strongest, if not the strongest. It’s going to be a challenge but I’m one looking forward to. The goal is always to win and always to be competitive. That’s the desire. I think one of the secrets to racing is being realistic and understanding where you can be.”
THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR: Sykes’ SCQ tyre runs, Donington Park success?
2023 will be the first time Sykes gets to use Pirelli’s new SCQ tyre. The tyre, designed primarily for the Tissot Superpole sessions, was introduced in 2022 when Sykes was out of the Championship and he will get the chance to use it at rounds where Pirelli make it available. Donington Park has been a very happy hunting ground for Sykes in the past with nine wins and 17 podiums from 26 races there, including a run of nine consecutive wins between Race 1 in 2013 and Race 1 in 2017. Sykes also has 12 pole positions to his name at his home circuit, could there be more success for Sykes at the iconic Donington Park? In terms of milestones, Sykes’ 350th race start awaits in Australia, but he is also only two rostrum finishes away from Noriyuki Haga’s tally of 116 who lies third in the all-time list of podium finishes.
Watch the moment Sykes was crowned 2013 Champion at Jerez and follow WorldSBK as the golden era continues using the WorldSBK VideoPass!