Tom Sykes was back at WorldSBK last weekend and while not lining up on the grid he was more than making up for it as an enthusiastic spectator.
“It's fantastic [to be back]” the 2013 World Champion commented trackside from Donington Park. “I love to be in this circuit. Even though I'm only spectating I'm still having a great weekend. I would certainly love to be riding but it is what it is and I’m enjoying the experience.”
Currently racing in the Bennetts British Superbike Championship for Paul Bird’s MCE Ducati squad, it’s safe to say the results have been less than expected from the much-touted partnership. Four rounds in, Sykes sits 14th in the 2022 standings on 47 points, 30 behind teammate Josh Brookes, in ninth.
“Yes, it's disappointing,” the Yorkshireman said simply. "Absolutely not what I expect and I'm sure it's not what PBM experts, certainly myself, I do not expect this but it's not for no reason.
“Without going into detail, it's not possible to do what I expect in this moment in time.
“People are going to compare that they're beating Tom Sykes in BSB so they can run here in World Superbikes but it's not the case. It's not the case. For example, we've seen a British champion come here this weekend on a bike that he knows, and a circuit he knows, tyres he knows and we can all see the situation. So no, it's wrong for people to think like that and for that reason it doesn't bother me when I sleep at night.
“What does bother me is that it's not what I expect because the potential of myself and the bike, like we saw in Misano testing. Like we've seen when I've done a little bit of riding, the potential is very high and it's to the level of, essentially, running at the front of World Superbike. For whatever reason it's not replicated in British Superbikes. We just need to keep working and create that possibility and when that possibility is there, then I'll do what I do.
“Every time I step on a motorcycle I feel positive because I believe in my own capabilities,” Sykes continued on his British troubles. “Unfortunately, we can only do what we have in the toolbox. Of course the Showdown cutoff is tapping on my shoulder and if I don't make it I'm not going to beat myself up because like I said, every time I step on the motorcycle I do my best, whether or not the package or whatever, everything has to fall into place.
“The beauty is, and I'll repeat myself, is that having ridden in Misano and Mugello, myself and the package is not the question. But for whatever reason in BSB we have some limitations.”
So with the day job not going to plan, is the former WorldSBK front runner aiming for a return to the paddock he spent the past 15 years?
“Literally I came here because it's up the road from where I live,” Sykes explained. “I love this circuit. I was never too bad here but my record's gone after five years. Literally I came just to enjoy it, and just to spectate. You know, of course there has been interest when I've been walking through the paddock, so we will just see. I'll carry on, enjoy the Sunday racing and then go back to my championship next week in Brands Hatch.”
Last season brought rumours of a move to Pedercini Kawasaki before the Ducati deal was done in BSB, the Englishman having been informed later than he would have liked that his services would no longer be required by BMW Motorrad.
“I’ve known Lucio for a long time and yeah, you know, there was conversations,” the 36-year-old acknowledged. “Like I’ve said, unfortunately, I was given the news too late last year by a certain individual inside BMW so I have a problem with a guy there, nothing with BMW - that’s a great manufacturer and I have no problem. I have a problem certainly with one individual because to do this, to a factory World Superbike rider, World Champion, it's just completely no level of respect whatsoever.
“Everyone in life has a plan, or most people who want to be successful have a plan, and a certain individual changed my plan through arrogance and ignorance and like I said, that was an individual that wasn't the manufacturer. That was just some individual on an ego trip, changed my path and so now we'll see what happens for the future.
“We'll see. I just want a situation with a good stable platform where I can hopefully show my potential on a race track again.
“I mean, even with the BMW last year, one of the last races, basically the last race before I got injured, Everybody saw my potential in qualifying - at a circuit with a very, very long straight and in that moment that wasn't a good thing for the bike I was riding but we still ended up with a circuit record, just less than three-tenths in front of Toprak and half a second in front of multiple World Champion Jonathan Rea, who is no slouch in qualifying! So the potential is there. I just, I'm at that point where I just want to try and get something where I can show that but for now that's down the line and I have a job to do BSB.”