2018 Superbike World Championship Round 6 - Superpole:
Few riders in the history of the FIM Superbike World Championship have had as much overall success as official KRT rider Tom Sykes. But this weekend, at his home circuit of Donington, the 2013 WorldSBK Champion moved out ahead of all the rest with a stand alone record of 44 Tissot Superpole wins.
Superpole, as a means of WorldSBK riders qualifying for their final grid positions, has taken many forms over the years but since Sykes’ first Superpole win at Imola for Kawasaki in 2010, he has collected more pole position trophies and sponsor’s watches than anybody else before. And he has completed all of his Superpole success riding on Kawasaki machinery.
At his beloved Donington, with a late push to take his second Superpole of the 2018 season, Sykes managed to score one more top grid spot than even the legendary Troy Corser, who’s record of 43 Sykes equalled in Australia during the first round of the current season.
Sykes was awarded with his 44th trophy by his fellow countryman, and former racer Roger Burnett, the rider who took the very first WorldSBK pole position prize at Donington Park in 1988.
There could be no better venue for Sykes to attain that record Superpole success at than the circuit he has recorded nine race wins on in recent times - Donington. Or as some have called it recently, ‘Doningtom’. Celebrating his Superpole success in the Superpole presentation ceremony with a specially designed ‘Superpole Man’ costume and cape, Sykes was back in race action soon after, leading several laps of race one and then taking another podium finish.
As well as all his Superpole success, Sykes is fifth in the all-time record books in terms of WorldSBK race victories, with 34 race wins to his credit, not to mention his prized world title in 2013. All of this makes him much more than a one-lap specialist, even if he is now the greatest ever in this kinetic art form. His most recent race win for KRT, for example, came at Assen just a few weeks ago.
Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team Rider): “Scoring this record at Donington is special because it is on home soil. It really adds to it all. You are in front of your home fans, friends and family. It is a nice achievement and I have always looked at pole position as proof that you are the fastest man on the grid. That is how I always saw Troy Corser. It is just conformation of that. It still fills me with confidence because a lot of the people in the past have said ‘he is only good for one lap,’ but I always found this quite funny. I always thought that once I turned that one lap speed into 23-lap speed everyone would see my potential. Anyway, 44 Superpole certainly takes some racking up and it is a big personal achievement. In Superpole, I always just try to get a feel for my bike on the out lap, after coming from using a race tyre to a qualifier. I always feel that once I have the package underneath me, and I know I have enough wear and heat in those tyres, it is all about building up. Once I cross the start-finish line to start a fast lap, I know what I need to do. The out lap and the ‘Q’ lap are almost like chalk and cheese. You go from such a calm feeling to an attacking feeling. That is just how it works and how it has done for me. You have to have 100% confidence in your bike because you know you have to put that front end where you want, open that throttle a lot earlier in advance of where you would on a race tyre, so there are many parameters. It is certainly a lot more demanding and on a knife-edge compared to what, perhaps, a race lap would be. And all my Superpoles were done on a Kawasaki. I have certainly helped their tally of pole positions and they have helped me.”
Guim Roda (KRT Team manager): “When I was in the pit this morning and I saw Tom coming up on the record I had a goose pimples in my arms. This does not happen normally on a race weekend. This is because is always incredible when you not only achieve success, but also even make something that is part of history. Now Tom has this credit to be part of history. I think for many years when you see the pole list will see the name of Tom Sykes at the top. This is always nice to get, so I’m so happy for him. Another curious point, but not less interesting, is that he got this record 100% with Kawasaki bikes. So Kawasaki must be very proud too. We prepared some funny celebrations after his success, so now I think we will try to produce some T-shirts - because many people start to ask for them!”
Danilo Casonato (Tom Sykes’ Data Engineer): “Basically, Tom’s Superpole performance is because of his riding style. Normally his corners are tight and this is an advantage when you have a lot of grip with a Q tyre. You can automatically use the Q tyre much more than other riders. This is the main question. When you close the corner, automatically you take fewer metres to make the corner, then you are ready to open the gas and you use the tyre more. And if you have grip, you can use it.”
Marcel Duinker (Tom Sykes’ Crew Chief): “Tom has proven that he has an outstanding ability extract the maximum from his usual bike, but with extra grippy tyres. He feels the limit of his machine, his package, his tyres, more quickly than other riders. When you go out on a qualifying tyre, you make your out lap, and in that moment he is able to extract more performance from his tyres than the average Superbike rider. His ability to directly find the very, very limit of the tyres, and do this for one lap is due to his sense of the bike, its feedback, and his riding style is also part of this process. This combination has been successful 44 times in the last couple of years. I believe that this record will stand for quite some time.”
2018 Superbike World Championship Round 6 - Superpole & Race 1:
Official KRT riders Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes finished second and third respectively after the first 23-lap WorldSBK race of their home round at Donington Park in the UK.
Sykes had started from a record breaking 44th career pole position, with Rea just behind in the second place grid spot. In the race their Kawasaki battle for the win was eventually for second and third place, with Rea taking the runner-up spot.
In a race that appeared to be a start-to-finish KRT battle after the first few thrilling laps, Rea finally secured second place and finished just over a second from first time WorldSBK race winner Michael van der Mark. Rea led the first five laps of the race, before first Sykes and then van der Mark came past. Rea got past his team-mate finally on lap 17.
Sykes was 2.193 seconds from the victory in race one, and led the race in determined fashion from lap six to lap 14, before rear traction issues dropped his pace. He was still over four seconds ahead of the fourth place rider.
In what were dry and relatively warm conditions compared to a damp and chilly first day of track action on Friday, Rea secured his ninth podium of the year in race one, pushing himself 59 points ahead of his nearest championship rival, Chaz Davies, in the process.
Sykes drew himself to within 17 points of second ranked rider Davies after his third place finish at Donington, with Chaz finishing down in eighth place today.
Tomorrow’s 23-lap WorldSBK race is scheduled to start at 13.00, local time in the UK.
Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team Rider): “The bike felt good to be honest but just in the middle to end the grip level dropped and I was having to override to try and make up, especially in the Craner Curves sector, where I was losing a lot to Mikey. In the more stop and sections I felt quite OK and I could be constant. He just had a better pace. Michael was riding well and his bike was working good but the first race gave us good information for tomorrow. In initial acceleration I felt quiet good but anywhere I was using a lot of lean angle, trying to carry momentum, I was really struggling. We just need to re-evaluate our package for tomorrow. I felt like I did the best job I could as at the end of the race the bike was becoming very physical to ride, moving a lot and I was riding a bit tense. It was not for us today.”
Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing team Rider): “It was pretty good to get a new Superpole record. There is personal satisfaction because for me Superpole is all about pure speed, so you are the fastest guy in that moment. It is a nice record to have, and it is something to be personally proud of. In the race I just wanted to get into the lead and I had a lot better pace at the beginning. But for some reason in the middle of the race I started suffering with spinning the rear tyre. I think I managed that and I think we did the best we could. Michael had incredible grip and when he came through, away he went. So for tomorrow we have a little bit of work to do but a podium is nothing too shabby. Tomorrow I feel we can improve the bike and give it a better shot.”
2018 Superbike World Championship Round 6 - Race 2:
Jonathan Rea (KRT) scored a second podium during his home race weekend after finishing third in Sunday’s 23-lap WorldSBK race, with his team-mate Tom Sykes sixth
A thrilling finish to the second WorldSBK race at Donington Park saw Jonathan Rea just lose out on his chance of finishing second, being displaced by young Kawasaki privateer Toprak Razgatlioglu. It was a thrilling battle for the spectators, but with most of his main championship rivals behind him, he extended his championship lead once again.
Sykes had a tough second raceday after his podium performance on day one, finishing sixth and unable to compete in the way he expected to. On the same standard rear tyre choice as day one he felt that the larger development rear may have been a better race two choice, despite winning a man-to-man battle in the closing laps with Lorenzo Savadori.
In a dry race, the flags came out at one stage to warn of rain falling in all sectors but it came to very little and the pace was unaffected at the front. In a race that had four leaders, including Rea, there were several aggressive early passes and some thrilling overtakes, in a classic WorldSBK event in the UK.
In the championship, Rea leads by a strong 64 points after 12 races. Sykes is now fourth, albeit on the same points total as third place rider, and double Donington race winner, Michael van der Mark.
The astounding podium finish of second for Toprak Razgatlioglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) was his own first top three and the first podium for any Turkish rider. He was tenth on lap one and moved forward at great pace in what was only his 12th WorldSBK race start.
Local wildcard Leon Haslam (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) made a superb start and was in podium contention until he fell on lap two, and was unable to restart. Leandro Mercado (Orelac VerdNatura Kawasaki) was 12th today, while stand-in rider Luke Mossey was 14th for Team Pedercini Kawasaki.
The next round of the championship will take place at Brno, in the Czech Republic, which is a circuit the team has tested at recently. Racedays will be the 9th and tenth of June.
Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team Rider): “It was a difficult race because in the beginning it was very aggressive from all riders. Guys who are not usually near the front were super-aggressive. When I got a track position I could be really smooth and do my own thing. Michael passed me, made a good attack and was able to stretch that gap a little bit. I wasted a lot of tyre and energy trying to get back to him. I also ran into some arm pump under braking at the end so it was hard to start thinking about attacking Michael. I could see Toprak was coming from my pit board but there was nothing I could do about him at that point, as he had better pace at the end. The target here at Donington was to exit the weekend with more than 50 points of advantage in the championship and we exceeded that, so for me it was a positive weekend.”
Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team Rider): “It looks like we missed out with our tyre choice today. We continued on the standard rear tyre and we really suffered with traction. The guys in front obviously used the bigger tyre. So I was disappointed with that. I felt we had good speed to be a lot closer but we were battling with Savadori, and the lap times were not great at that stage. I also suffered with the strong winds at the top of Hollywood. I know where to be fast at Donington and I could not hold the throttle like I could in the past, so we need to adjust the bike setup. It was a bit of a mixed bag today and not what I was expecting. Onwards and upwards and we have lots of good tracks coming up.”
2018 Superbike World Championship Points after Round 6:
- JONATHAN REA 245 KAWASAKI
- CHAZ DAVIES 181 DUCATI
- MICHAEL VAN DER MARK 163 YAMAHA
- TOM SYKES 163 KAWASAKI
- MARCO MELANDRI 136 DUCATI
- XAVI FORES 124 DUCATI
- ALEX LOWES 118 YAMAHA
- TOPRAK RAZGATLIOGLU 78 KAWASAKI
- LORIS BAZ 67 BMW
- JORDI TORRES 64 MV AGUSTA
- LEON CAMIER 56 HONDA
- LORENZO SAVADORI 53 APRILIA
- MICHAEL RUBEN RINALDI 43 DUCATI
- LEANDRO MERCADO 38 KAWASAKI
- EUGENE LAVERTY 37 APRILIA
- ROMÁN RAMOS 32 KAWASAKI
- JAKE GAGNE 20 HONDA
- PJ JACOBSEN 18 HONDA
- LEON HASLAM 14 KAWASAKI
- DAVIDE GIUGLIANO 11 APRILIA
- YONNY HERNANDEZ 11 KAWASAKI
- BRADLEY RAY 3 SUZUKI
- LUKE MOSSEY 2 KAWASAKI
- ONDREJ JEZEK YAMAHA 2