Is Tom Sykes better placed as a BSB top dog or as a WorldSBK…

Tom Sykes’ winter of uncertainty kicked off in February 2022 with no clear indication yet of where the 2013 SBK World Champion might end up in April.

The Briton has been without a firm race since August, when BMW Motorrad officially confirmed that Scott Redding would replace him in Shaun Muir’s factory-backed setup. Despite BMW’s efforts to “relocate” him, Sykes severed ties with the automaker after becoming angered by what he saw as a lack of loyalty.

Since then Sykes has been heavily linked with a return to the British Superbike Championship (BSB), which he left in 2008 with Paul Bird Motorsport’s VisionTrack Ducati and a WorldSBK lifeline with Pedercini Kawasaki.

One would see him presented as a title challenger, the other as a risk with a team that has racked up more numbers than positions over the years.

Surely that’s obvious…or is it?

Why Tom Sykes is joining BSB for 2022…and why he shouldn’t

As national as it may be, there is no doubt that the British Superbike Championship is not lacking in talent and spectacle, traits which have maintained its status as the most revered national motorcycle racing series in the world.

A BSB title wouldn’t replace the WorldSBK trophy that sits proudly on Sykes’ mantle – at least in terms of prestige – but suffice it to say that his status as world champion won’t intimidate a group of seasoned and successful rivals. .

And therein lies a problem – if Sykes intends to use BSB as a stepping stone to WorldSBK, he will be expected to win the title in a similar way to alumni before him. , such as Shane Byrne and Leon Haslam.

Naturally, Sykes is quite capable of doing just that, but BSB is designed to keep the competition tight and the margin for error slim. Also, as demonstrated in previous years, rebounds from WorldSBK to BSB to WorldSBK have been a hit (Haslam) and a miss (Byrne).

If Sykes is basing his choice primarily on a desire to step onto the podium, then he has a very tempting proposition indeed.

Indeed, Sykes has some history with Paul Bird Motorsport, beginning its long association with Kawasaki when its factory effort was led by PBM. He picked up his first WorldSBK win with a surprise wet success at the Nurburgring in 2011.

Although PBM may not have capitalized on its luck in WorldSBK with Kawasaki, there is no doubt that the team is a force at the BSB level. It gives Sykes every opportunity he could want to make a triumphant return to BSB in 2022…

But as WorldSBK increasingly looks to the next generation for the next wave of Superbike superstars, will anyone be watching Sykes in BSB?

(Ed: As of this writing, Sykes’ ties to PBM Ducati have grown through Christian Iddon’s confirmation with Suzuki, although there are rumors the team is delaying announcements to find a new title sponsor to replace VisionTrack)

Why Tom Sykes should join Pedercini Kawasaki for WorldSBK 2022…

To put it bluntly, Sykes is known to have been approached by Lucio Pedercini to take his available Kawasaki bike for the 2022 WorldSBK season, but it’s unclear if he’s even interested.

Nonetheless, we’ll be playing devil’s advocate for a while anyway.

A quick look at Pedercini’s WorldSBK form makes one wonder why anyone with status would join the steadfast but modestly budgeted Italian team. He barely broke the points in 2021 thanks to a regular revolving door of substitute runners alongside perennial running back Loris Cresson.

However, Pedercini Kawasaki is leading a tight effort, which has outlasted every other privateer team to ever compete in WorldSBK. With the right backing and the right rider, he showed impressive pace, especially in 2019 with regular top ten Jordi Torres.

While not Sykes’ fault, a rider of his gravity would draw more sponsor attention to Pedercini and possibly even Kawasaki if he is to bolster his privateer family to compete with the more closely associated satellite efforts. from Yamaha and Ducati, GRT and Barni. It also wouldn’t hurt Kawasaki to have such a seasoned developer on its books.

Indeed, while the ZX-10RR has evolved since it threw a leg over it in 2018, no one knows the Ninja more intimately than Sykes. So using Torres as a scorer, there’s an argument to suggest he could be capable of giant-slaying performances…especially when it comes to Superpole.

Indeed, if you’re easy to dismiss Pedercini Kawasaki as a minnow that would discredit Sykes’ skills, then you’re actually seeing my point upside down. Why not consider him a runner of Sykes’ skills who proves a catalyst in turning a team of minnows into a competitive team?

Think back to 2008 when a star performance on BSB Rizla Suzuki convinced Yamaha to sign him for the following season.

It’s easy to dismiss Sykes’ tenure in WorldSBK (since 2009) as it’s a final hurray for his career. Indeed, his status is seen to have slipped in recent years, first being overtaken by Jonathan Rea at Kawasaki, then blending into the pack as he developed the modestly competitive BMW package from 2019.

Dig a little deeper and there’s evidence that Sykes is still at the top of his game. He passed Michael van der Mark, a big name, before his injury which affected the season in Catalonia and he showed during this same round that he was still able to do the perfect qualifying lap (51 poles and more) .

Also, although Rea got the better of him at Kawasaki, Sykes never slipped outside the top four overall between 2012 and 2018, which Haslam and Alex Lowes after him on the same bike weren’t. close to match.

Alternatively, Sykes could find himself stuck at the back of the grid for the whole season, but if Pedercini has low expectations he is very qualified to exceed them, putting himself back on the radar for 2023.

So the question really is, what results on the little Pedercini Kawasaki in WorldSBK are worth as much as winning a BSB title in some distant UK? Answers on a postcard…

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