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Tom Sykes and Jonathan Rea at the 2018 WorldSBK Motul Dutch round

Rea records & Sykes salvation as Kawasaki put Assen to the sword

Apr 222018

Fast, physical and inviting: Assen was also green for the fourth year in a row. Kawasaki Racing Team duo Jonathan Rea & Tom Sykes set small milestones with their triumphs on Saturday and Sunday respectively under freakishly hot April sunshine in the northern Netherlands.

World Champion Rea tussled with Chaz Davies and Michael Van Der Mark to own a close chase in the opening affair while Sykes took advantage of the reversed grid on Sunday to sear free of the pack and his distant teammate to grasp his first 25 points since Misano last summer.

Rea matched Carl Fogarty’s record of 12 wins at one track (his 8th straight chequered flag at Assen) and now stands just two victories away from the Brit’s all-time total but it was Sykes’ return from the top step ‘wilderness’ that felt just as emphatic. It was also a remarkable turnaround for the 2013 #1 who could only take fourth place while Rea dropped his Saturday landmark. The 32 year old was vibed and clearly thrilled with his display.

“This has justified what I have put in, and we worked hard in winter testing,” he stressed. “On a clear track at every circuit we’ve visited I believe we are potential race winners. Unfortunately in a battle the bike isn’t behaving how it should be. There are people outside of racing that don't believe this…but last night I knew with a bit of magic the old Sykes could be back.”


“I was amazed to see the gap on the pitboard,” #66 described. “I’m really happy, and actually quite emotional. I was silent on the slowing down lap for quite a while and that's for a number of reasons both professional and personal. It is such a fantastic win, especially in Jonathan Rea’s ‘back garden’. The ZX-10RR was great on that clear track: I could put the bike where I wanted to, apply the brake pressure I wanted and opened the throttle when I wanted.”


“I’ve had a bit of a personal battle recently and part of the secret was releasing this back into the race,” he revealed. “We’ve had race-winning performance at most tracks this year but today we were given a great opportunity and I proved to myself and probably a number of people that the speed is not a doubt. I thought the lap-timer was stuck because it was so consistent. What a feeling. I forgot how special it is to win races.”


Sykes also talked about the tactics and support from Crew Chief Marcel Dirks who took to some unconventional methods to remind his rider of his possibilities. “I’m not an arrogant guy but recently Marcel put on paper the achievements I’ve made with the race wins, Superpoles and the championship. And when I saw it on paper I said to him ‘holy s**t!’ I don't sit at home massaging my ego at those numbers but when I was shown then I realised it was not [achieved] for nothing. I have to thank Marcel for his mental approach; it’s been like this a number of times actually.”

“You have to believe in yourself and I honestly think, potentially, I am the fastest rider in World Superbike. Of course I won’t go around saying that to people – even if I just did! – and it’s not something I’ll say every day: that might be the first time I’ve mentioned it! I suppose I’m a bit excited and on a high at the moment.”

Importantly Assen represented a ‘refresh’ for Sykes; he had only scaled the podium once so far in 2018 and had been attracting some scepticism over his competitiveness in a season where Kawasaki are already limited by technical regulations. “Sometimes I’m not happy with some of the comments, even from inside the Kawasaki Racing Team, that come to me about my riding but today at this circuit I think we can put some of those doubters back in their box,” he stated.