The Kawasaki World Superbike line up will remained unchanged for the next two years. On Monday morning, the Kawasaki Racing Team announced they had signed Tom Sykes to another two-year contract for WorldSBK.
Sykes will line up alongside Jonathan Rea in 2017 and 2018, as he has for this season and last. There had been a lot of speculation that Sykes could jump ship to Ducati, after the Italian factory had handed him a de facto blank check for his signature. Sykes preferred to remain with Kawasaki, however, despite the animosity in the Kawasaki garage between the two riders.
With Sykes and Rea signed to Kawasaki, the focus turns to Ducati. Chaz Davies described his talks with the Italian factory as being at an "advanced" stage, with still a few details left to fill in. Davies had been linked to rides in MotoGP, but the Welshman said he was only interested if he could go with the right support and the right crew around him. The second seat at Ducati is likely to go an Italian rider, though it is uncertain whether that will be current rider Davide Giugliano.
With MotoGP seats filling up, and some riders being left out in the cold - including the two Aprilia riders Stefan Bradl and Alvaro Bautista - Silly Season is likely to start hotting up in the World Superbike championship. There could be more riders heading over from MotoGP to WorldSBK, while existing riders jockey for position to get the remaining strong seats on the grid.
Below is the press release from the Kawasaki team announcing the signing:
Sykes And Kawasaki Racing Team Continue Their Strong Partnership
2013 FIM Superbike World Champion for Kawasaki, Tom Sykes, will continue his successful relationship with KRT and KHI for another two years after making a new agreement with the Japanese factory to be a key member of the overall Ninja ZX-10R racing project, both on and off-track.
Having formed such a successful partnership with Kawasaki in the past few years, culminating in his championship win in 2013, Sykes will continue to be an integral part of the Kawasaki racing and development programme around the awesome Ninja ZX-10R. Tom’s commitment to the Kawasaki cause has been evident ever since he first rode a WorldSBK spec Ninja back in 2010, and he has collected an enviable list of achievements along the way.
Sykes has now taken 30 race wins, and all but one of his 76 career podium finishes, on ZX-10R machines. Tom has also set the second highest ever record of Superpole qualifying wins, which reached 36 at the most recent round in Misano. He has also set 30 fastest laps during WorldSBK races and has been twice a runner-up in the championship, in addition to his headlining success in 2013.
In making a new agreement with Kawasaki’s official squad Tom is now intent on continuing his career at the highest level of production-derived racing, with the most successful WorldSBK team and machine of recent times. Once more Tom will join up alongside his current KRT team-mate Jonathan Rea, who also recently re-signed.
Tom Sykes stated: “I am really excited to have made a further commitment with KRT and KHI. It’s a great feeling to be back with such a great team for another two years. We have already shown the capabilities of the latest model Ninja ZX-10R this season and there is a lot of potential still to come from the bike. I think it is safe to say that we have the best all-round package in the FIM Superbike World Championship and I would like to thank KHI for showing their continued commitment to me as a rider. As well as the bike and the on-track performance I have been part of the Kawasaki family for seven years so it was really natural to continue that relationship. To carry on working with my dedicated crew - Marcel, Danilo, Mattia, Raul, Tambu and Ruben and all my other valued colleagues and friends in the team - was priceless as they are widely recognised as the pick of the crop in the WorldSBK paddock. I get so much support from the brilliant fans and passionate Kawasaki owners that it was also a positive decision to make to remain part of that. Another important thing is to continue the development programme, for the road bike and the race bike side of things, which is something I feel an integral part of. The technical aspect of working with the team and KHI is deeply satisfying to me, not just the successes on track.”
Steve Guttridge, Racing Manager Kawasaki Europe, stated: “Tom has grown up inside our Kawasaki WorldSBK projects as have Kawasaki with Tom Sykes. The combination of Tom and his crew chief Marcel Duinker and data engineer Danilo Casonato, along with a great team of staff around them, has been invaluable to our Ninja ZX-10R's success and overall model feedback over the past several seasons. Both sides obviously value their relationship dearly and the continued potential of that relationship into the future. Given all of these things we are obviously very happy that we can look to the next two seasons with Tom.”
Guim Roda, KRT Team Manager, stated: “Tom signing for two more years with Kawasaki is a very nice point to continue our project from, while also developing the latest Ninja ZX-10R until 2018. This is a part of Kawasaki’s strategy - to have two top riders inside KRT project - and now we can say proudly that we still have the two best riders in the WorldSBK championship. It has been a longer negotiation with Tom because he has been with Kawasaki for seven years - two with PBM and five with KRT - and there’s always some private and personal points we have to respect when a rider thinks about taking such a important decision. Tom always said from the beginning his first wish was to continue in the Kawasaki family, so we are happy he can trust in the new ZX-10R and KRT staff to get what he expects. I personally think that the best of Tom Sykes is yet to come. The level of competitiveness from KRT will be high and we will increase this even more, so I’m sure other manufacturers will have a tough job for the next two years.”
Ichiro Yoda, KRT Senior Engineer, stated: “I have been involved for many years in racing activities, since 1980, and I know how difficult it is to have a rider motivated and convinced to stay for a nine years with a brand. We have given Tom the option to think calmly and we are very happy that he has decided his future is with Kawasaki and KRT. His value as a rider has been proved through many years. He has been now, for five years, in the top two or three in the world. This is not easy to do. His experience and sensitive riding style gives us good direction on the points to take care of to improve the Ninja ZX-10R in the next two years. I am personally very happy to again have two great riders in KRT.”
The final word goes to Mr. Yuji Horiuchi, General Manager of R&D Division, Motorcycle & Engine Company KHI, who stated: “To have not one but two WorldSBK Champions in our team is a considerable achievement. We are happy that the valuable work Tom has already done on the development of the 2016 Ninja ZX-10R and his enviable technical ability can continue to benefit us for the next two seasons and that our racing project with KRT has the talent and stability it needs to achieve even greater racing success in the years to come”.