The return of WorldSBK to the Czech Republic proved to be a race weekend to remember. Tensions between Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes overflowed, Alex Lowes delivered on his long held promise and we saw flashes of promise from elsewhere on the WorldSBK grid.
Kawasaki tensions overflow
That Rea and Sykes don't like each other has been clear since the start of their tenure as teammates. The 2013 world champion had been the center of attention at KRT for years and Sykes had developed the ZX10R into the best package on the grid. It allowed him to win races and become a consistent force at the front of the field. Since Rea joined in 2015, however, his power has been eroded within the team and his potential on track has been limited. Their dislike for one another has been clear to see for years but on Sunday it boiled over.
After a clash on track that took Rea out of the race the 60-time race winner pinned the blame firmly at Tom's feet while Sykes's felt his actions had been 100% clean. Race Direction took no action against either rider and declared it a racing incident. While Race Direction might view this as a closed incident, it's clear that it will be far from that for both riders and their team.
Sykes' future has been the topic of conversation in recent months, and now the question will turn to whether Kawasaki are willing to tolerate tensions between riders, mechanics and engineers for another two years. They weren't willing to do this with Sykes and Baz post 2014 and that led to the signing of Rea. Will they take a similar approach with Sykes?
First of many for Lowes
Speed has never been a question for Alex Lowes but on Sunday he finally claimed his first career victory. The 2013 British Superbike champion became the 74th different winner in WorldSBK history just two weeks after his teammate, Michael van der Mark, claimed his first career victories. For Yamaha the victories have been a long time coming, but for Lowes it was crucial to get the monkey off his back as quickly as possible. With his teammate having won races that monkey could have become a Silverback very quickly. Instead the Englishman can enjoy the spoils of success, and arguably, the biggest spoil is that parity remains the key word at Yamaha.
In racing, resources follow results, and if Van der Mark had gotten the better of Lowes in Race 2 the resources and focus of the team could have followed. Instead, Lowes ensured that the team knows they have two race winners and parity remains crucial as they look to develop the bike further. Both riders have proven themselves to Yamaha and the team will now be focused solely on confirming their futures so that they can continue to progress in 2019.
For Lowes the relief of winning was clear to see as the emotions of over four years without winning came out. “It's funny because I've won races at Suzuka in the last few years, and that's important, but winning an individual race is different. On my cool down lap it was a bit emotional but I was back to myself when I got to parc ferme, but to see what it meant to so many people got the better of me! I know how hard these guys all work and I know the sacrifices that people have made for me and that was what I was thinking when I saw them all afterwards.”
Potential turning into results
Aprilia are used to winning in WorldSBK but finally the potential of the bike is starting to come to the fore once again. Luck has worked against the team this year and Eugene Laverty's injuries certainly cost them a lot of strong results, but finally the potential is being rewarded with points. The team have said that they can't sell potential to sponsors for 2019 but finally they're delivering what they're capable of. In the second half of the year they certainly look ready to make another step forward.
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