Tom Sykes has seldom had a great season start at the awesome and undulating Phillip Island circuit in Australia. But after the final winter tests of the year at PI he feels relaxed and confident. “I am more than ready and this is the best kind of pre-season we have ever had in PI,” grinned Sykes after the completion of two days of testing and with third best lap time in his back pocket.
“Even today the lap time on used tyres was very impressive,” said Sykes. “I was happy with my own performance, considering the big crash yesterday. I cannot believe how much I got caught up in the gravel, and then the bike followed me. I got up and walked away and I have only got a little bit of two sore ankles. I felt better today already. I have two days of rest now and I am ready for the weekend.”
For Sykes, traditionally a point-and-squirt rider, the loss of over 1000rpm from his engine in 2018 should have been another in a serious of technical limitations that have taken away his previously unbeatable form – the kind of race long speed that made him world champion in 2013. But he and his crew have even found some advantages compared to 2017’s more rev-hungry machine.
“It is not ideal,” admits Sykes, “but we are not suffering a lot. We are a factory team with two good riders and you always find a way around it. Corner entry in some areas, in some respects, is better. And the power is a little bit lower down in the RPM, which means I can use the engine a little bit more to my style. At this moment I feel quite comfortable on the bike and ready for action. The bike feels pretty much the same to ride but the corner entry, for sure, is different. We have so much less RPM, and it is no secret that the inertia of our bike is quite high, so with less RPM I am able to get into the corner cleaner, and with less push and front understeer.”
Sykes has tried both big and regular sizes of rear tyre, and is not convinced to go with the bigger profile one yet. “In this moment I am unsure which tyre to use, as we have done a lot of work on the standard tyre, but we have had great results on both combinations,” said Sykes. “We can fine tune the tyre situation on the weekend.”
By Gordon Ritchie