Tom Sykes enhanced his WorldSBK Mr Superpole status even more at Losail, taking his 48th such ‘win’ before bagging a second place in race one a few hours later.
A win was not on the cards for Sykes, as his team-mate and multiple record holder Rea was just too far ahead to run down, especially as each had front end grip issues over race distance. “Today I could see Jonathan being little bit more efficient in the stop-start areas,” said Sykes, “I could not turn the bike. The gap stayed fairly constant but there was no answer for him today.”
With Sykes off to pastures new in 2019, he was asked directly if he sees any combination being able to beat Rea over the season.
“Honestly speaking, no,” said Sykes. “It is funny because at the end of the day he has made an incredible job for four years. I am the one who gets a lot of stick for it, saying I have lost my touch, but we finished runner up for one or two years. We will see. In answer to your original question, I highly doubt it.”
Had the race been shorter than the full 17 laps of the long 5.380km circuit in the desert, there could have been something different for Sykes.
“In some areas I feel faster and on the data we have some good speed. If it was a 12 lap race I would do something quite different, but it was 17 and it is that extra five that makes the difference. If you look at both Kawasaki front tyres, that is an issue. So I had to knock it on the head. Tomorrow could be tricky because we will have to stress the tyres more, coming from the third row. Potentially Jonathan has got the minerals for another one tomorrow.”
This is Sykes’ last weekend as a Kawasaki rider, before he sets off on a new adventure in what should be a BMW ride with SMR. But as the one time Mr. Kawasaki, it must be tough to leave the manufacturer he has had every single significant result with in WorldSBK, except his first ever podium on a Rizla Suzuki as a BSB regular and WorldSBK wildcard.
Sykes has seen his departure form Kawasaki coincide with domestic issues that have had a detrimental effect on him and his racing.
“I am starting with a clean slate,” said Sykes. “My personal life and my business are coming to an end at the same moment, so my timing is fantastic… It will be strange and, I will be just completely 100% honest with you, the last two years have been a complete disaster in my personal life. With, let’s say, the divorce and those two beautiful girls in the middle, and it has taken a toll on me mentally.
"It also impacted my business, my work if you like. It is just one of those. We have had a fantastic era together, Kawasaki and me. It was always going to come to an end, but if I am honest, I think with what has gone on in my personal life it has come to an end sooner than I had hoped. At the end of the day they had made a big investment to the riders and perhaps they were just looking for a little bit of a change. Who knows? I think next year is a new chapter.”