Phillip Island’s high winds and high speeds proved a bad combination for many riders on the first day of official testing, with even some world champions being caught out and crashing in a big way.
2013 WorldSBK winner Tom Sykes (KRT) set a handful of laps in the afternoon session, building speed to be on course for a personal best lap until a big highside crash in the fast turn 11 spat him off.
Said Sykes, “The wind was incredible, but I had a good feeling with the bike and I was happy with our performance in those conditions. But, I got a little bit more throttle opening and I lost the rear tyre, with not so much warning. Then I had a BIG crash, a big highside at turn 11. Thanks to Dainese and Shark because, wow, I cannot believe I got away with it! No broken bones but soft tissue damage on the ankle and foot. It is my left foot, but it is OK – I can stamp them gears down!”
Sykes had had a relatively recent operation to remove some metalwork from the left hand and finger area he injured so spectacularly at Portimao last year. He was lucky to not hurt himself in that area in what was a fast crash hard on the gas, made worse by his bike impacting with him after he had come to a halt. “My previous hand and finger injury is OK, got away with that. I got the arms tucked in. It wouldn’t have been so bad but the bike caught me up, just as I was finishing rolling and it smashed into my legs a bit. But it was not too bad. I think I will be a bit sore on the ankle tomorrow but everywhere else, I think we will be good.”
The crash was particularly frustrating for Sykes as he had been making gains in his lap time, and was otherwise feeling comfortable unit his surprise heavy fall. “In general, we have been good, and I am happy with my progress,” said Sykes. “We tried a few different things this morning – and this afternoon we were straight out. I got up to speed even with the windy conditions and was on a personal best lap, actually. I would have beaten my best lap from this morning, which was not the norm. Most people were slower in the afternoon.”
Sykes and his 2018 peer group have one more day of testing before the first round of the championship starts for real, between 23rd and 25th February.
By Gordon Ritchie