LEAMINGTON’S Tom Sykes is adamant a message has been sent out to the World Superbike paddock after he completed his best-ever weekend at the opening round of his fourth season on Phillip Island.
The 26-year-old has been solid if unspectacular since making the jump from the British to the global stage, finishing ninth overall in his first campaign in 2009 and then 14th and 13th.
Those previous two finishes came under the guise of the Kawasaki Racing Team and, with Sykes retained by the Japanese manufacturer this year, he appears to finally be finding his feet.
Sykes was the fastest rider during an official pre-season test at Phillip Island less than a week ago and he proved that was no fluke by storming to pole position in Australia.
He was in the top three for 13 laps of race one but, struggling with windy conditions, dropped to fourth before securing third in race two and Sykes believes his performances won’t go unnoticed.
“In race one I got a good start and over race distance I had been feeling really strong all week. It was a very difficult race though with the wind blowing me and the bike around,” said Sykes.
“But to be honest I had to use my head a bit and not get sucked into too much fighting. I was just trying to manage the gap behind.
“So to come away with a fourth, on a track like this, using the same tyres as the guys on the podium, is a bit of a first for us.
“It shows the progress Kawasaki has made over the winter and to take the podium on the last lap of race two was really satisfying.
“The bike has been working really well in winter testing so big thanks to the team; they were very focused.
“Race two was even windier than race one but my crew chief and team changed the balance of the bike and compensated for some things.”
Sykes took 29 points for his efforts in Australia and sits third in the overall rankings after one round – Max Biaggi, winner of race one, leading ahead of Marco Malandri with 45.
Reigning champion Carlos Checa topped the podium in race two and Sykes is adamant he showed on Phillip Island that he is more than capable of matching them this season.
“For sure we arrived at the limit but we were able to maintain a consistent pace right to the end. I had a good fight with Max for a couple of laps and a few corners,” he added.
“So to come away with pole position, third and fourth in the races I am over the moon especially as this circuit has never been a strong one for us in the past.”
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