British rider Tom Sykes (above) finds a home for 2010 on the Kawasaki ZX-10R, campaigning alongside MotoGP rider and former SBK star Chris Vermeulen.
The English rider piloted the factory Yamaha R1 in 2009 alongside fellow rookie, and now World Champion, Ben Spies. Sykes did not fair quite as well as the American, finishing his inaugural season ninth overall and without a ’09 podium finish (the 24-year-old does have an SBK rostrum appearance to his credit via a 2008 wild card entry at Brands Hatch).
The move reunites Sykes with Kawasaki’s team manager, Paul Bird – for whom Sykes campaigned British Superbike in 2007.
“I’m very excited to join Kawasaki and the Paul Bird team,” said Sykes in a press release announcing the signing. “I have worked with Paul before and the team is full of very capable people. It is good for me to be still working with a manufacturer and I see a lot of potential in the project. We all want to achieve the same goal. I learned a lot in my first full WSB season and I feel next year I can put that into practice. I am very fortunate to be in the situation I am in now, joining with Kawasaki, and I think 2010 is going to be a very exciting time. I have only spoken to Chris Vermeulen a couple of times but I am sure we will get on great. He seems very laid back and a down-to-earth sort of guy. The good thing for the team and myself is that he is very experienced and will bring a lot to the table. I am sure we can be a good partnership.”
So now it’s up to Sykes, Chris V and the Bird team to whip the ZX-10R into competitive shape. A tall order given Kawasaki’s SBK history of late. Bird seems optimistic of the team’s chances in 2010 now that his rider lineup is set.
“I’m absolutely delighted that we have managed to sign both Chris and Tom, as they are both fantastic riders and I know they’ll do a great job for us next season,” said Bird in the same PR announcement. “Chris has proved how competitive he is on a Superbike as his results demonstrate and I’ve always rated Tom highly, that’s why I handed him his first proper Superbike ride back in 2007. The team has made huge strides forward this year and we can now put into practice what we have learned and I fully expect us to be challenging at the sharp end in 2010. I’d like to take this opportunity to say a special thanks to both Broc and Makoto for their hard work, professionalism and dedication during the past season and myself and the whole team wishes them both well for the future.”