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Navarra WorldSBK: ‘A different bike on qualifying tyre’ - Sykes

BMW’s Tom Sykes explained why he and his bike are so capable in Tissot Superpole but less so in races after finishing sixth, 20 seconds from the win, in Navarra’s first WorldSBK race.

All the way through, Sykes was still top BMW rider.

“Like I’ve said time and time again, at the end of the day, it is what it is,” said Sykes, continuing, “we clearly have limitations with the bike. Both myself and Michael are more than capable riders, and we both have the same issues. Different bike setup, different riding style, same issues.


“I will continue to strongly believe that speed for me is no question. That’s why with the qualifying tyre, to be honest, the qualifying lap for me is much more easy than a race tyre lap just because I’m able to ride more naturally. I’m able to extract more from myself, and also ultimately be more of a racing style.

“In the racing, I’m still missing rear traction and turning from the bike. Obviously, there’s only so far you can go with that. Like today, we finished sixth which is a big improvement for us in the hot conditions. Nobody crashed in front of us, but we’re still 20 seconds from the win. So, there’s still work to be done but there’s no quick fix, is there?

“That’s why, to be honest, I’d like to see if that 20 seconds could be gained by purely riding. If the rider could close out 20 seconds today, then I’d do it. I’d take off my hat to him.”

When Sykes means rear traction he is - mostly - speaking about rear traction into the corner, under braking and during lean in and trail braking. All aspects of having grip to get into and finish the corner on the intended line and with the right control.

“Yeah, very much, it’s all the way,” saids Sykes. “That’s why with the Q tyre I can just get the bike in the turn, release the brake, pick up the throttle much easier, concentrate on finishing the corner. It’s hard for me explain it to you, but it is really a different motorcycle on the qualifying tyre.

“I’ve worked with some very, very good engineers in my career, and to be honest, that’s how the story started at a different manufacturer. The bike was good for one lap, but not very good for 21. Those engineers took my speed and their findings and made it very good for 21 laps. So, very, very similar grounds here.

“I’d like some assistance where we could give me some percentage of that package, and I’ll do the rest for the 21 laps. But until we get that, both myself and Michael are facing limitations.”

Alex Lowes commented about riders of other bikes being able to ride like Supersport bikes in some regards, due to advances in tyre performance. Maybe it is Sykes’ hard braking, flick it in and hard throttle out that is no longer as valid? He disagrees.

“It’s a big statement, that,” said Sykes. “I don’t really want to go into too much detail. I’m not going to be careful, because every rider has their own opinion. But, when you’re dealing with 230 horsepower or more, it doesn’t matter what tyre you have. There’s a certain element of stop-and-go, because when you’re on lean angle you’re not going to use 230 horsepower. Believe me, when you go up to 230 horsepower, that’s when you make some good laps. So, I agree with him in some respects, but I also disagree with him in others.


“I’ve seen Pirelli have got a really nice tyre, this 557, which is a bit stiffer construction compared to the X, but gives you more grip from the zero. So of course, this allows you to release the brake a little bit, but in this moment, I can carry corner speed.

“The problem is I’m not able to finish the corner, which I remember very, very well on the Kawasaki I could finish the corner extremely well on throttle open. It’s not the case now. I’ve been behind the Yamaha. They can finish the corner. So to me, if you can finish a corner, you can go back to more stop-and-go style.”

Sykes, like most in the hot temperatures has some front tyre grip issues to deal with.

“We had the same problem,” said Tom. “Like I said, unfortunately, because I’m not able to finish a corner, I spend quite a lot of time on lean angle…. We had some limitations with the front tyre. But it certainly felt warm in the leathers. I’ll have to check the track temperature, but I think it was over 50 degrees.


“For sure the tyres get a hard time because it’s bumpy. So that means when it’s bumpy there’s a lot of moving, a lot of scrubbing from the tyre. So for sure they get a hard time here. Pirelli, I think, are doing a good job because there’s also another option on the front, which is something that we could look at using in the warmup to see.”

Sykes agreed with his old team-mate and bitter rival Jonathan Rea that some of the bumps at Navarra are like motocross bumps. “Yes, extreme. Certainly down into T5 there’s some real big bumps there. What makes it hard is it’s easy to ride on the bump with the suspension, and then everything goes into the tyre.

:There’s some quite extreme bumps in this circuit, that’s for sure. Especially down the main straight here. I’m glad I wear a chest protector. When you start getting towards T1, just as you’re in sixth going across the start/finish just a bit there’s a couple of real kickers. The first time I rode it, I wasn’t aware of that. Almost took the wind out of my sails.”

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