Tom Sykes: Determined To Succeed With Kawasaki
January 15, 2010
New Kawasaki World Superbike Racing Team rider Tom Sykes starts his second full time SBK season full of enthusiasm and commitment to make another positive step in his career.
Sykes, already a podium finisher in the Superbike World Championship, after some brilliant wild card rides in 2008, ended his first full-time season in WSB last year well inside the top ten. That overall ninth position came despite a late season injury that lost him points at a vital time.
That stroke of bad luck made the offer of a new job in the official Kawasaki squad this winter a dream role for the 24-year-old English rider. It is an opportunity he fully intends to make the most of.
"I am over the moon to be involved directly with Kawasaki," said Tom recently. "They have a fantastic racing history and I am really excited to be part of the new set-up, hopefully moving forward together with them in the future."
Like his team-mate Chris Vermeulen, Sykes has recently undertaken a significant series of development tests on the awesome Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R. Unlike Vermeulen, Sykes has raced for team owner Paul Bird in the past, during their BSB years. More than any other factor, that familiarity with many key members of the team has allowed Sykes to settle into his new role quickly.
"One of the strong points of signing for the team was that having worked with them before we got a lot of things sorted early on," said Tom on the eve of a new season. "Going to the first test I really felt like I had already ridden for them. That was a big plus."
Tom is new to the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R, but by a strange quirk of fate, his first racetrack experiences on a four-stroke of any kind came via another strand of Ninja heritage.
"The first four-stroke bike I ever rode was my Granddad's Ninja ZX-6R Kawasaki, in Junior Superstock in the UK," remembers Sykes. "It came about because the future of the 250cc class in the UK was looking bleak. We got a lot of advice and help from Mick Grant (Kawasaki GP race winner and legendary racer of years gone by) who only lived across the field from my Granddad. He said to him, "Take the roadbike and put him in Junior Superstock, to get him to learn the basics of racing a four-stroke as quickly as possible."
So we took my Granddad's roadbike, with 10,500 miles on it, fitted some race fairings to it - and then rode the last few Superstock rounds in 2001!"
There has been a lot of four-stroke racing and experience for Tom ever since then, including a second place at Donington WSB in 2008, and three BSB Superbike race wins.
Away from the race paddock, Sykes is still a homeboy at heart, and anything with wheels and an engine is a source of possible amusement.
"I am down at the workshop now, working on one of my toys, which is a go-kart with a 250cc four-stroke engine. It's an absolute weapon! Now I am fitting a few trick bits to it. I like to tweak things. Apart from that, some general training at the gym and riding my Kawasaki motocross bike, that is what I enjoy doing.
I am pretty much an outdoor man but I do like to go and sample some nice coffee bars, and kick back with my girlfriend, Amy. I am still based near Huddersfield, in Yorkshire. That offers me the best of both worlds; a bit of countryside and a bit of town life."
Paul Risbridger, Team Manager of the official Kawasaki World Superbike Racing Team, is one of the squad members not to have worked with Tom before. That gives him an ideal perspective to describe Tom the racer in 2010. "Tom's riding style means that he tends to be slower in the middle of the corner.
He stops the bike, gets it turned quick and then stands it up to get on the power early. Classic Superbike riding style really, getting as much power down as soon as possible."
After multiple tests and many hours having meetings and debriefs in the pit garage, Risbridger understands very well that Tom is a real asset to the team. "As a person, you get to know Tom better and
better all the time," said Paul. "When you first meet him he is a difficult guy to read. But it becomes more and more obvious why he has got to where he has got to in his career. He is a determined guy who wants to achieve; no question that he is fired up. He likes to have fun but in the testing environment and the pit box he is very focused."
Tom and the whole squad will head to the track next time at the official SBK test sessions at Portimao,
January 22 to 24, in readiness for the first race of the season at Phillip Island on February 28.