Although not back threatening the podium positions, there were shoots of recovery in the British Superbike Championship at Donington Park for the MCE Ducati team, in the final race at least, with Tom Sykes taking seventh place, his best finish of the season so far.
Both Sykes and teammate Josh Brookes have been experiencing a lack of grip, with the former’s lack of traction out of the corners at places like Redgate and Coppice corners noticeable. As good as anyone, if not better, on the brakes, the former World Superbike Champion was frustrated as the riders in front of him edged away but he left the Leicestershire venue with his biggest points haul from any of the three rounds.
“We’re continually making changes to understand the bike more and find solutions so a big thanks to the team and whilst we know we’re not where we want to be, everyone’s staying patient,” Sykes said at the conclusion of the day’s racing.
“The limitations we’ve had in previous rounds are still there and are ultimately holding me back but the final race of the weekend was obviously the best and in some sectors I was quicker than some of the other riders and able to make some clean passes. With clear track, I was able to ride more naturally with strong lap times right up until the end of the race.
“We’ve two strong riders in the team and there’s no doubting the capabilities of anything, anywhere so we’ll keep improving as I’m very keen to taste the champagne again!”
For former double champion Brookes, rear grip remains an issue, as it was in 2021. Both he and Sykes had to go to Q1 but whilst both progressed into Q2, Brookes couldn’t repeat his times and was a lowly 16th on the grid for race one compared to his teammate’s seventh. The grid positions would hinder him all weekend but finishes of 13-10-8 at least showed progress across the three races.
“I went well in Q1 but didn’t string the laps together in Q2 which ultimately compromised my grid position and I was still struggling for rear grip,” Brookes explained. “We’ve been putting more weight on the rear to get better grip and although we’ve exhausted those options, the direction we went in on Sunday enabled us to make marginal progress.
“It was progress nonetheless and the bike felt better in the final race. The grip was better and for the first time in a while, I was able to battle with other riders - it was nice to pass people and race people again! We know we’ve several problems that still need to be resolved and whilst it’s hard to be excited with the results this weekend, it’s still nice to make a step forward and close the gaps.”