Jonathan Rea and Chaz Davies may have been the men to beat in this season’s Superbike World Championship, but Tom Sykes will be the rider with a target on his back at Donington Park this weekend.
The 31-year-old, 2013 world champion, is unbeaten around the Leicestershire circuit in the last four years, racking up eight wins in as many races, but has yet to stand on top of the podium this season.
Sykes’ challenge has been blunted by a mystery illness and a failure to fully adapt to the revised tyres and technical regulations brought in for 2017 but, as the Yorkshireman told Insidebikes, he feels that he is getting stronger and more competitive all the time.
He said: “The season so far has been fairly acceptable but not perfect. I have had some stomach issues for around eight weeks but the good thing is that I am on the mend. The technical changes have affected the way I wanted to ride the bike but I’ve spent all winter trying to fine tune my riding style and making it suit better the new rules. It seems to be working although I still don’t feel like I have the ultimate speed on the new tyres.”
Donington Park will be the only time that Sykes and his hoards of fellow world superbike Brits will ride in front of their home crowd but he claims that neither this, nor his enviable record around the 2.5 mile circuit, will change his approach.
He added: “I’ve had a lot of success there but it’s just another race circuit for me and I’ll be aiming for two more wins this weekend. It’s a circuit of two halves and over those two halves I perform very well. I’m not the best in any sector but I am good in all sectors, which seems to work for me.”
Sykes currently lies third in the championship and concedes that catching Rea, who is 75 points ahead in the title race is difficult, but not impossible,
“We need to win races and Jonathan needs to make a mistake,” he concludes. “The season is still very, very long with a lot of opportunities.”
The British round of the Superbike World Championship takes place at Donington Park this weekend. If you can’t make it along in person, you can watch the action live on Quest (Freeview channel 37, Sky channel 144) with racing from 10.30am on both Saturday and Sunday.