GIVE Tom Sykes a top functioning machine – and just watch him go.
The Fenay Bridge-based Rizla Suzuki racer continued his assault on the British Superbike Championship exactly where he left off at Oulton Park – on top of the podium.
The 22-year-old, who celebrates his 23rd birthday on Tuesday, stormed to success to win the first race at Knockhill, adding to his double race victory at Oulton, then backed it up with a solid fourth after a damp crash-littered shortened second race at the Fife circuit.
After a good start in race one, Sykes battled with Ducati’s Michael Rutter on the damp but fast drying track, passing him on lap nine and never looked back.
After winning the last two races at Oulton Park it marked a unique hat trick of victories for the Huddersfield ace.
Race two started straight after a rain-storm and on full wet tyres Sykes moved from seventh on the grid to fifth on lap eight when the race was red-flagged due to a crash.
The grid reformed shortly after and now on slicks to suit the drying 1.27-mile track, Sykes was in contention for a podium finish with six laps to go when the red flag brought the race to halt and the result declared after leader Shane Byrne crashed on his Ducati.
Honda’s Leon Haslam won the race.
“Race one was fantastic,” said Sykes. “My Rizla Suzuki was doing just what I wanted it to and once I passed Michael Rutter for the lead I controlled the gap until the end. A couple of the back-markers upset my rhythm a little but I kept going and to score my third Superbike win is brilliant.
“The second race was more difficult with a wet first part and then damp but drying second. Fourth is okay and I’ll take the points but if it had been another couple of laps longer I would have been able to take the two riders in front of me and a second was on the cards, if not another win.”
Tom remains third in the championship going into the ninth round at Cadwell Park on Bank Holiday Monday, August 25.
Knockhill Race I: 1 Tom Sykes (Rizla Suzuki) 25:09.296, 2 Shane Byrne (Airwaves Ducati) 25:12.389, 3 James Ellison (Hydrex Bike Animal Honda) 25:12.775
Race II: 1 Leon Haslam (HM Plant Honda) 11:58.300, 2 Michael Rutter (North West 200 Ducati) 12:01.514, 3 Karl Harris (Team Yamaha) 12:01.841, 4 Tom Sykes (Rizla Suzuki) 12:01.980.
Hardinge Ice Valley privateer Tom Tunstall, from Denby Dale, had to wrestle with engine and gearbox problems on both of the team’s Honda Fireblades which left him short on dry track time in practice.
But despite being knocked from second to fourth on the Cup grid in the final moments of qualifying Tunstall ended the 30-lap race in fifth and, swapping to the spare bike for race two, his confidence in the wet showed immediately.
Despite a grabbing clutch leaving him trailing last away on the grid, he began cutting his way through the field and by the end of the first lap he was up to third against his Cup Championship rivals.
After a three rider crash brought out the red flag Tunstall headed back out for the restart when he immediately noticed a problem with the drive chain jumping.
Having to re-enter the pits to resolve the issue meant starting the race from the pit-lane.
Having been held for so long with a running engine Tunstall’s machine overheated and when he did get away was sprayed with boiling engine water!
But after taking a few corners to get the engine back down to temperature it took nearly six laps to catch the field.
Pushing hard he was up to fifth and by lap 10 he was catching fellow Cup riders Gary Mason and Martin Jessop before a massive front end slide forced Tunstall across the gravel trap and grass run off to save from crashing out.
Fortunately the gap behind was great enough for him to hold onto fifth and he brought it safely to the flag.