Tom Sykes is to remain with Kawasaki for the 2012 World Superbike season, despite the Japanese manufacturer switching factory support from the Paul Bird Motorsports team to the Provec team that ran Kawasaki's World Supersport squad in 2011. The Yorkshireman impressed on the Kawasaki ZX-10R throughout the 2011 season, and his strong results earned him a new contract with the Japanese factory.
Sykes had been racing with Kawasaki for the past two years, after spending a year as teammate to Ben Spies in the factory Yamaha squad. The Englishman was consistently fast on the Kawasaki, showing an improvement when the Japanese factory introduced the new 2011 model this year. Sykes got his long-awaited first victory in WSBK in Germany this year, in the atrocious conditions that caused race 2 at the Nurburgring to be red-flagged, handing Sykes the win.
Sykes is to line up alongside last year's teammate Joan Lascorz in the factory Kawasaki team. After Paul Bird lost the contract to run Kawasaki's WSBK team, the team will now be run by Provec, and will be cut back from three riders to just two, both Lascorz and Sykes being retained, with Chris Vermeulen losing his spot after a long year battling injury. The team will have more directly links to Kawasak Heavy Industries back in Japan, with Kawasaki boss Ichiro Yoda overseeing the project, while Guim Roda, who ran the Motocard.com Kawasaki WSS squad, will be managing the team.
Below is the press release from Kawasaki Europe on the signing of Sykes for 2012:
Tom Sykes aboard Ninja ZX-10R again for 2012
Newsflash, 15 November 2011
Nürburgring race winner Tom Sykes has signed to ride for the official Kawasaki Racing Team in 2012, joining existing rider Joan Lascorz.
Sykes, who has been an official Kawasaki rider for the past two seasons and a key figure in the development of the current Ninja ZX-10R racebike, has already won a world championship race for Kawasaki, at the German WSBK round in early September.
Lascorz and Sykes had their first test in preparation for the 2012 season at Portimao on Tuesday 18th October, only two days after the end of the 2011 campaign, and it was a test that turned out well for both riders.
The team's European logistical base will be in Spain but with overall control coming direct from Japan, as the Superbike World Championship programme is a full Kawasaki Heavy Industries project.
Tom Sykes: "I'm very happy to be continuing with Kawasaki and the Ninja ZX-10R in 2012. I believe the bike has good potential and we saw some of that come through in 2011 with a race win in Germany and superpole at Misano. These are the kind of results I am looking to achieve in the coming season on a regular basis and I really believe we can do this. I have a lot of confidence in Kawasaki and the team around me, so if we can improve a couple of points with the set-up of the bike on the track which I feel are restricting performance this would be a big step forward for us in the final results. I am looking forward to re-starting our test programme again very soon."
Guim Roda, Team Manager: "We are very happy to run with Tom in 2012. Kawasaki always tries to keep the people it has in place and Tom has been making a good job in the last two years with Kawasaki. He has the potential to go fast, as he has shown in 2011, and now we have to repeat that for full race distance at each round. He is young and determined, which are good combinations for a fast rider. I'm sure working closer with Marcel, his new crew chief, and taking part in all the tests we have planned means he will take one step more and he will be able to fight for the podium places at every race. Let's see what he can show us all next year."
Steve Guttridge, Kawasaki Europe Race Planning Manager: "It's great that Tom's with us again for 2012 in the World Superbike Championship. He's worked hard within the project over the past two years and has always dug deep when it mattered to give us our first pole and race win with the new Ninja ZX-10R. PBM had good insight to hold onto him this year as part of the three-rider team and now Tom has justifiably been rewarded with a full KHI factory rider contract for next year and being part our new WSB project. With a year under his belt on the new bike and a strong test plan being coordinated from Japan, I'm sure we will get to see Tom on the top step of that podium far more regularly in 2012."