Confident Sykes aims to turn tables on champ Rea

Factory Kawasaki riders Jonathan Rea (left) and Tom Sykes with the 2016 Ninja ZX-10R.
Factory Kawasaki riders Jonathan Rea (left) and Tom Sykes with the 2016 Ninja ZX-10R.

Former World Superbike champion Tom Sykes has vowed to pick himself up and dust himself down after being comprehensively beaten by new team-mate Jonathan Rea in 2015.

The Yorkshire rider, who claimed the title for Kawasaki in 2013, was upstaged by Ulsterman Rea last year, who made a stunning transition to the Ninja ZX-10R after years spent on Honda’s CBR1000RR Fireblade.

Rea set out his stall with a dream debut victory in the opening round at Phillip Island and never looked back, going on to win 14 races in total as he sealed the championship at Jerez in Spain last September with two rounds still to go.

It was a sobering experience for Sykes, who had previously been the unchallenged number one KRT rider, but the Englishman is full of positivity after pre-season testing on the new 2016 ZX-10R, which more closely mirrors the characteristics of the machine he rode from 2012 to 2014.

Sykes, who finished third overall last year and a whopping 149 points behind Rea, admitted the 2015 campaign had represented a ‘setback,’ but has the air of a rider who is confident he can make amends this season as the countdown continues to the first round of the year at Phillip Island in Australia, which takes place on from February 26-28.

“I am very excited and motivated. Last year was a setback for me and the guys around me. Having said that, I am very blessed because I have certainly got the best people around me,” said Sykes.

“Come rain or shine and even on the difficult days, the guys patted me on the back. They know I give 100 per-cent. Likewise they always give their best. If you had a difficult season and still finished third in the championship it is also not so bad.”

Assessing the 2016 Kawasaki, Sykes has given the new bike a huge thumbs-up and no wonder, with the latest ZX-10R utilising much of the development work carried out by the 30-year-old over a three-year spell during 2012, 2013 and 2014.

“Kawasaki has given me another fantastic tool; the new 2016 Ninja ZX-10R is absolutely fantastic. It is a bike I am very familiar with,” Sykes said.

“It is a bike that feels almost replicated from our 2012, 2013 and 2014 development. The first laps were very exciting and from there on it just got better. Things have come easier for me and the lap times are already impressive and there is still work to be done.

“I definitely feel that with big help from the people around me, Kawasaki and all our technical sponsors we have the best chance and best package on the grid,” he added.

“Given the form we have had in recent testing this pre-season I cannot wait for it to begin.”

Sykes joined Rea last week at the official unveiling of the 2016 Kawasaki machines in Barcelona, when it was confirmed that the Northern Ireland man will ride with the number one plate this season in place of his traditional number 65.

Meanwhile, Ballymoney’s Seamus Elliott says he is thrilled to be granted the opportunity to make his debut at the Isle of Man TT this year.

Elliott, a winner in the Supersport class at the Southern 100 in 2015, will ride a Kawasaki in the Superbike, Superstock and Senior races for the team, which is run by Mark Cubbon.

First established in 2009, the team is part funded by fans, who make a donation to have their photo included on the fairing of the machine.

“We’ve been trying to get over to the TT races for a few years so It’s brilliant that it’s finally come together and I’ve now got this chance, particularly with a team as strong as the peoplesbike who know the Island and what you need to do to run a proper campaign,” said Elliott.

“I’ve started to learn the course and I was over on the Isle of Man with the rider liaison officers, which really got me excited for the races and I just want to repay the faith that the team has in me.”

A number of leading competitors have raced for the team in the past, including Steve Mercer, Dan Hegarty, Stephen Thompson and, more recently, Alan Bonner.