Portimao WorldSBK test: Sykes ‘surprised’ by pace on day one

Picture: GeeBee Images

Despite his new bike being in its early stages of development, Tom Sykes took his official BMW Motorrad S1000RR to fifth place after one day of WorldSBK testing at Portimao, getting to within 0.613 seconds of his former team-mate Jonathan Rea, and even managing to squeeze 0.012 seconds ahead of the rider who replaced him, Leon Haslam.

Considering the relative youth of the official BMW project, operated by SMR Racing from the UK, Sykes was impressed by how it is going so far.

“It is still early days and obviously we can see a reference time,” said Sykes about Rea’s best lap so far, which was 0.419 better than the next nearest rider. “I am really quite surprised with how close we are, considering how early we are in the development phase.

“Phillip Island is something we are building towards. That is why for me I was not stressed in Jerez. We lost most of day two but the guys in the team learned a lot. They had a lot of work to do but it was a very productive day. I have had two days to relax since then, because my body took a bit of a pounding at Jerez, but we are straight back into it today. I am enjoying the whole thing.”

Clearly Sykes’ BMW is working well, straight out of the crate, so to speak. “The S1000RR is certainly something different and it has some positives to work with,” said Sykes.

“My best time today was set on race tyres,” affirmed the 2013 world champion. “We have a lot to do and the guys have done a good job. We had a plan before Christmas, a plan in Jerez and we had a bit of a setback, but we responded accordingly here. We have tested a lot of different components on the chassis, suspension and electronics as well.

“I am just surprised really on how the lap time is coming because before Christmas the lap time was impressive, we rolled into Jerez, and even on day one we were close. You cannot judge because on day two we lost everything but also here, on the single lap and over distance, it seem to be really quite promising. We still have a lot of things to do. I have to thank the guys for their efforts, and we made use of all the track time, even in the windy conditions. That amplified a problem I was having; we reacted and certainly improved the set-up.”

Sykes is not sure, in percentage terms, how close his bike is to the absolutely finished WorldSBK article, in terms of parts, sensors and all other things. “I still feel there is quite some work to be done, certainly where we are with the engine, but it is so early,” he reminded everyone, including himself. “This is our fifth day on track and when you look at the lap times compared to factory teams – let’s use Kawasaki as a reference – there is potential.

“I am enjoying the riding really which is the main thing. I certainly feel I am giving the guys good feedback. I feel that with my experience and the guys’ experience, I certainly feel we have shortcut on the development phase. It is a proper effort, and everybody is working in their own area trying to make that area as good as possible.”

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