2018 WorldSBK will soar into a blur this weekend. One of the world’s best and fastest circuits – Phillip Island in southeast Australia – will again stage an exhilarating and pulsating opening fare for riders, teams, fans and motorcycle racing followers around the planet.
The framework narrative for 2018 has already been cast: three times world champion Jonathan Rea is chasing more records and history with a fourth crown on the ZX-10RR Kawasaki, his same factory team are one of the worst penalised with the new technical rules to slice revs away from manufacturers on a sliding scale of capacity and success and Rea’s opposition is expected to be harder than ever with Ducati, Yamaha, Aprilia and Honda all upping their game to alter the green ‘shade’ to the series.
Someone other than Rea is looking to maintain the dominant colour of WorldSBK: 2013 champion Tom Skyes. The 32 year old has existed largely in his teammate’s shadow since 2015 and on the racebike he helped morph through variations based on the uppity regulations in the last half a decade. Sykes’ 52 podium finishes and results of 3rd-2nd-3rd in the last three seasons indicate that #66 is very much one of the pace-setters of WorldSBK but his chances to re-assert a position as the ‘No.1 Ninja’ has been limited. One of the lowest points came in Portugal last summer when a fast and fiery crash in Free Practice at Portimao, Portugal led to a mangled left hand and blunted his challenge to Rea even further.