TOM Sykes insists it is finally shaking off the hangover from a debut World Superbike season from hell – not his pre-season pace – that leaves him convinced that 2012 can be his coming of age.
Sykes graduated to the global paddock in 2009 after impressing in four wildcard rides in 2008 but, by his own admission, life with the Yamaha Sterilgarda team was far from rosy.
Although coy about the details Sykes readily accepts his confidence took a blow in a testing first season which saw the 26-year-old finish ninth overall and find himself without a deal at the end of the season.
Sykes has since gone on to endure two further testing seasons – ending 14th and 11th overall riding a Kawasaki – and will enter this weekend’s opening round in Phillip Island as the unofficial fastest guy in the paddock having topped the time sheets at the pre-season test in Australia this week.
And, while it should be the times that Sykes uses as a tonic ahead of this weekend’s opener, the Leamington ace insists it is anything but.
“When I first came into the World Superbikes in 2009 it didn’t play out as I would have wanted it to for a number of reasons,” said Sykes.
“It’s a big step up and things didn’t work out unfortunately. It’s taken two more years to get people to trust me just so I can get another break and chance to prove myself.
“Kawasaki have shown their trust in me to give me this shot and I want to try and have a good season now.
“I have always had confidence in myself and my ability but unfortunately that is what racing is like, you don’t get a second chance.
“Racing is one of those things where you have to have a lot of things right to get the results. It is not just about being a good rider.
“You need good management and a good team and I like to think I have got most of the boxes ticked now and I want to try and make the most of the package I have got this year.”
Sykes – who lives in Weston Under Wetherley - is certainly doing just that on the available evidence heading into round one, having clocked the fastest times at the Phillip Island test on Monday and Tuesday.
Sykes’ best lap time of 1:31.648 minutes was enough to edge reigning champion Carlos Checa, who posted 1:31.652, down into second with Jakub Smrz third in 1:31.800.
But, with the track Down Under one of the Leamington ace’s least favourites, Sykes insists it is solid, not spectacular, results he craves this weekend.
“The World Superbikes is going to be a great spectacle this year because it is highly competitive,” added Sykes.
“ Carlos Checa seems to have a strangle over this place on his current bike. You have got to have a look at the likes of Carlos and Max Biaggi and that is why I want to try and start the season with a couple of solid finishes. Top five would be fantastic.”
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