After a season that’s fallen a long way short of everyone’s expectations, Donington Park reminded everyone of just how much Tom Sykes still has to offer the sport, the MCE Ducati rider taking a stunning pair of BSB victories.
Sykes came into the meeting on the back of his best result of the season, sixth at Oulton Park, and with such a strong record at Donington, hopes were high for the MCE Ducati rider and third in qualifying got the ball rolling.
However, that was nothing compared to Saturday’s 15-lap Sprint race where he led from start to finish, controlling the race impeccably to eventually come home 1.476s clear of Jason O’Halloran. It was Sykes’ first BSB victory since he took a double on the PBM Kawasaki at Brands Hatch in 2010 and the first win for Paul Bird’s team since July 2021.
“I was obviously hoping for more this season but Donington Park’s more of a Superbike circuit than some of the others we’ve been to,” he said afterwards. “I still had a couple of limitations with the bike but I was able to ride round them and put the MCE Ducati where I wanted to, taking advantage of the strengths we had in other areas.”
Starting Sunday’s opening front race from the front row, he lay in third place in the early stages before overhauling firstly Andrew Irwin and then championship leader Bradley Ray to take the lead. Once there, the race followed a similar pattern to Saturday as he again controlled the race perfectly.
“I was happy with how the opening race went and although I didn’t get the best of starts, I was soon into my rhythm. I knew where the Ducati was strong and pushed hard in those areas and although I wasn’t necessarily planning on making the move by Andrew (Irwin) when I did, I showed him a wheel, made the pass and away I went.”
“I could see where I was stronger than Brad and once I’d got by, I managed my tyre and lead as best I could. I chipped away with the laps and got to understand the bike more whilst Brad kept me honest throughout. I watched the pit board and managed the lead in the last few laps so it’s a big boost for the morale of everyone in the team after what’s been a difficult season.”
Few would have bet against Sykes making it a treble but with the race being stopped, he knew his chances had gone with the SCX rear tyre not favourable to repeated heat cycles. Nevertheless, he was on course for another podium only to be hit from behind by O’Halloran going into the Melbourne Hairpin.
“We made some small alterations to the bike, nothing major, but with the red flag, the performance with edge grip on the tyre dropped off. I still thought a good podium was on the cards but, unfortunately, Jason made a mistake and hit the back of me, which was obviously not his intention. It’s a shame to end with a DNF but I’m happy with two wins and putting some smiles back on the faces in the garage.”