Tom Sykes’ fourth place was an equal WorldSBK best for him on the new M1000RR BMW this year after a race that even some participants like him, with all his now 330 career race starts and one WorldSBK title, felt was a bit tasty, largley because of the conditions.
“Before the start of the race, the conditions were looking quite certainly not dry, so we didn’t go quite with the full dry setup, which hindsight is a wonderful thing,” said Sykes who felt more could have come with a full dry choice on his chassis.
“I think we would have really benefitted from full dry springs in there. So, that is what it is. We made the best with the package we had live on track. I don't think anybody could have predicted the sunshine that we had and how fast it dried. I think we just missed out. We had more of an intermediate setup and we certainly weren’t able to utilise the full slick tyre."
Again the early part of the track was the worst for Sykes.
“Worst no question sector one,” he went on. “Pardon my French, but holy shit! Top of Hollywood, turn one. It was just turn one, entry, middle, exit. Then there was a bit of a dry patch somewhere on the outside by the kerb, which gave you a bit of confidence just before you tipped it back. So, that was really tricky. It didn’t dry out, didn’t dry out, didn’t dry out, and then phoof.
"All of a sudden it just cleared up with the sunshine. So, sector one was difficult. Entry to the Old Hairpin I feel was a little bit tight on the proper line. That was bad. Entry to the Esses there was a river going into Melbourne. One on the way in and out of Melbourne. So that was a little bugger as well. Same for everybody. Tricky conditions.
"To be honest, I think a good amount of respect from everybody today because certainly from my side I could have had more of a lunge going into turn one, but it would have meant crossing a bit of wet and probably standing up somebody. I think there could have been a little bit more of a mess. So, quite controlled aggression on the early laps from all the boys out there. I think it looks like an exciting race. It certainly did from where I was. Jonathan grasstracking and one thing and another. Tricky, tricky race.”
With both factory BMW riders off the front row in race one, after another Superpole win for Rea, that may have been a factor of the riders’ abilities - Sykes and Michael van der mark his team-mate - more than the current full capabilities of the latest BMW. Chassis-wise at least.
“Being honest and hopefully not sounding arrogant, yes,” said Sykes. “I think they’ve got two very good riders inside the BMW Motorrad World Superbike team. Definitely some knowledge; we’re not shy on trying. That side is covered. That’s why we go testing. I think we had a good test in Navarra. Obviously learning the track, trying a few things and come here with some findings.
"Like I said, today we did run into some issue with the rear traction. But like I said to the team, I always say the new M1000RR is certainly behaving well in some areas, quite a number of areas. Unfortunately, rear traction not being one of them which is a shame because on a superbike that’s really quite important. Obviously, I would say that luckily I think everybody has seen the improvement in the M1000RR engine. Even when you’re struggling with rear grip, it gives you a little bit more possibility to fight, square off the corner, and not get swallowed up down the straight. So this also makes it easier.”
The rear end issue is across more than one character of bike behaviour for Sykes. “Today for me I struggled a little bit on the last part of entry, full banking and first part of exit. So unfortunately, quite a way. But that’s something now that we’re really starting to understand. That’s my motivation, really. Once we get rear grip, I think I might be able to bring some of that sparkle back.
"Like I said, if it’s wet, I’m really happy with our setup. It’s really quite good. And then the full dry also quite happy. So, it was just today I felt with the intermediate condition we probably didn’t get the best from our package, but we still ended up with a fourth. That’s what I said to the guys in pre-season. My whole idea to go racing is winning and then after podiums, and then if you have a little bit of an issue, try to be in the top six. So, we’ll see. Kept our nose clean today. Made a good race with what I would say an intermediate setup on a dry track, and I think that shows that we’ve got more potential for tomorrow.”