Kawasaki Superbike Racing Team rider Tom Sykes gave the brand new Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R its competitive debut and came away from the opening round of the World Superbike Championship at Phillip Island in Australia with a pair of battling top ten placings.
After a good qualifying session which had him as third fastest on combined times, the Huddersfield rider eventually slotted the Paul Bird Motorsport-prepared machine onto row three of the grid for the two races following Superpole with his Spanish team mate Joan Lascorz one row further back on his World Superbike debut.
With overnight rain giving way to drier conditions for Sunday's two 22-lap races at the classic 4.445km circuit near Melbourne, Sykes was looking good in the early stages of race one and eventually crossed the line in eighth position which he followed up with a solid ninth in race two, despite handicapping himself with a poor start.
As a result, the 25 year old Yorkshireman holds eighth place overall going into his and the Penrith-based team's home round at Donington Park in four weeks time.
For Lascorz, who was celebrating his 26th birthday today, it wasn't the best start to his World Superbike career as he crashed out of race one on lap 13 and then had to retire from the second race with a tyre problem.
Tom Sykes: "I'm happy to be eighth in the championship after the first round as you only have to look at the timing sheets to realise there is a real quality field out there. Less than a second covers something like the first 20 riders in qualifying, so it is quite pleasing in many ways to have been in there. I am a racer and I want to progress quickly but this is the first year with the new Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R and I am sure we can make even more progress very soon. Everybody in my garage is keen to win, that is what this whole project is about, but it is early days."
Joan Lascorz: "We had different settings on the bike because the conditions changed and it proved difficult in Superpole. I used a qualifying tyre but it made no real difference to the lap time so we had to gamble in the races. It's unfortunate to come away with no points but I hope for better luck at Donington."
Paul Bird, Team Owner: "Tom finishing in eighth and ninth is OK as it's important to get a result and points on the board at the opening round but a top six would have been better and I think he was capable of that. Joan was unlucky to slip off in the first race but his team made a wrong tyre choice in race two and he paid the penalty for that. Hopefully, we can progress further at Donington next time out and as well as Tom and Joan; we hope to welcome Chris Vermeulen back."
-source: pbm kawasaki