After a wild rumor appeared last night that Paul Bird was about to sign Scott Redding to join Chris Vermeulen at the factory Kawasaki squad in World Superbike - a rumor that appears to have been a piece of deliberate misinformation from the Bird camp, after promising an exclusive to Britain's Motorcycle News, and was quickly scotched by a look at the FIM regulations, which confirmed that Redding is too young to ride in World Superbike - the team has finally announced their 2010 line up. As predicted by British site Bikesportnews.com over a week ago and reported by our very own Mike Walt, Tom Sykes has been given the nod.
The Briton is currently partnering Ben Spies at the Sterilgarda Yamaha World Superbike team, but Sykes has been completely overshadowed by the sensational debut of his Texan team mate. Spies' rookie season has disguised the fact that Sykes has had a strong year, consistently finishing in the top 8, with a best result of 4th at Assen. Sykes is currently in 8th place in the championship.
The fact that Tom Sykes has agreed to ride for Paul Bird again should be regarded as remarkable. Sykes and former team mate Shane Byrne left Bird's Stobart Honda British Superbike squad at the end of the 2007 season, amid much acrimony and recriminations. Bird then hit out in very bitter terms at both Byrne and Sykes in an outburst in Bikesportnews.com, accusing them of "turning their backs" on the team.
Much water has obviously passed under the bridge since then, but the suspicion remains that neither Sykes nor Bird had very many other options. Kawasaki remains stubbornly uncompetitive in any World Championship racing other than World Supersport, and neither of Bird's 2009 riders Broc Parkes and Makoto Tamada have made any impression at all. Sykes, meanwhile, had few other options on factory-level equipment, and would have been forced to take his chances on a privateer team, a risk he has seen has not paid off as hoped for Shane Byrne.
With Sykes signed alongside Suzuki MotoGP refugee Chris Vermeulen, Kawasaki has its World Superbike squad complete for 2010. The team is due to make further announcements about a title sponsor for the next two seasons, and has had commitments of full support from the factory's HQ in Akashi for the coming years. Hayate and Kawasaki Technical Director Ichiro Yoda is due to join the team to manage the technical side of the project, and to help develop the 2011 ZX10-R. Kawasaki's next liter bike is expected to be a radical redesign of their current machine, including a switch to a big-bang firing order.