WorldSBK Catalunya: Sykes remains cool despite continuing BMW limitations

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Picture: GeeBee Images

It is safe to say that the entire BMW WorldSBK effort has not worked out the way they had planned in 2020, especially with riders of the calibre of Eugene Laverty and Tom Sykes on board.

A new bike last year, allowances were made for it not being as fast as its top rivals but it seems the BMW is still not ready to truly compete, except possibly in Superpole.

And recently technical issues raised their ugly head to boot, with Sykes out of race one. So, finally finish fifth in race two, passing riders as the race progressed, was just that - progress

“OK, we have had some more limitations and restrictions this weekend but I think all things considered the temperature went up and I do believe the race itself was quite consistent,” said Tom Sykes about race two, having not been able to finish race one on Saturday.

“Unfortunately I did not have the mechanical grip to go with the guys in the beginning but I was able to change a little bit the way to ride the bike, change a little bit the electronic mapping during the race and make the most consistent race we could.

“Unfortunately we lost a lot of information from yesterday’s big race, by not competing, and quite clearly that would have helped us in the race this afternoon. I think to finish top five is a step in the right direction, a refreshing change to get 20 laps under my belt and hopefully we can use this information and keep moving forward.

“The whole of the team, we have made good progress with the chassis this weekend, but unfortunately we have had some small problems which let us down and unfortunately it looks bad on paper.

“I ask you guys to give us a bit of leeway, because at the end of the day we are still quite early in the project, racing against manufacturers who have done a lot of seasons. The guys are working hard but unfortunately we have had these little technical issues, which are outside of human error. So the whole team was certainly upset yesterday.”

It does not help that last year delivered more measurable success than this year has, and expectations were quite high.

“But we are not racing a bunch of rookies,” said Sykes. “There are a lot of capable guys and lot of capable riders and teams out there. Last year I had pole positions and whatever (four podiums and one pole position at Donington).

“We have had a pole position this year – yes we have had one, so give us a bit of credit – Phillip Island, it has just come to me,” joked Sykes about his PI pole to start 2020. “I was also ‘pole’ at Aragon until I put it upside down into a fence.

“There is potential there, I have to say that. Some of the podiums last year were in wet conditions, where horsepower is not as essential.”

Sykes dodged the question of when more upgrades to his engine would be allowed. “Unfortunately I am not technically experienced enough to answer that question for you guys,” he grinned. “I would need to pass that one.

“We all know we need to improve but in this current climate who knows when we can answer this. It has slowed things up for all manufacturers.”

Sykes is fully confident that he can do the required tasks at the sharp end when his bike matches the rest. “I know my own capabilities and I know with the right package around me I can fight at he front. That is the whole reason I am sure, BMW employ me.

But, I have to just say, we need time. At the end of the day, how many years have Kawasaki or Ducati been at this? BMW has come back to it and last year we had some positive results. This year we have also gone faster, but so has everybody else.

“Everybody knows we have some limitations and hopefully we can get on top of those sooner rather than later. I have had the discussion on when things can arrive, but I would not be able to tell you that.”

It was very noticeable aspect of Sykes’ second race in Catalunya that he was able to move forward, not his ‘usual’ experience of losing places as the race went on. That must have been refreshing?

“Very refreshing,” agreed Sykes. “I can only do what the package does and when I can ride something underneath me that I can do what I want, I do not look as stupid on paper. It has been making me look bad recently and it is frustrating, but even today we had a limitation in the start of the race, in the beginning.

“I think considering everything we did the best we could. Luckily this is a track that we have tested at, we have certainly found out how much we are losing in straight-line performance, which is tenths, and it was also hot today.

“So all things considered top five was not bad knowing how much we can improve down the line. Having 20 consistent laps under out belts gives the team much more information and understanding for moving forward.

“We have had some technical issues this year, which have cost us quite a number of races and it seems to be the long races as well (three in the last three rounds) so you are forever playing catch up.

“It is only year two of the project and you are already throwing away races and it makes it doubly hard, certainly for the riders, to try and make the difference.”

Other riders could have been, as the question was put to him, on fire about so many losses of points for tech reasons but Sykes remains cool in his comments for the most part. Is this his long experience talking – not shouting?

In this game it is a small world and you have to be politically correct. The team know that my experience has definitely got them out of the shit a couple of times, because like in Aragon, we missed a two day test there, had a problem in FP1, and in the end I got five laps at the end of the session.

“But I think in these five laps I was still able to be somewhere inside the top five. That is just experience and not overreacting, yes.

“People inside the garage appreciate this. We have had a challenging time and quite some issues thrown at us, and I am never going to be one of those people that throws my riding kit around. You have to appreciate the equipment you have on your back and I am not going to smash the garage, because it is unprofessional.

“This certainly gets noticed and the management appreciate this. At the end of the day we all have the same target.”