TOM SYKES, of Farnley Tyas, showed he has the race pace to keep up with the best in the Bennetts British Superbike Championship – he just has to keep in the seat!
The 22-year-old planted his Rizla Suzuki firmly on the front row of the grid in third place for round three at Oulton Park.
But as he was leading the way at the Cheshire circuit, his dream of a maiden victory was shattered when he was involved in an incident with Honda rider Leon Haslam in the second race of the day.
Sykes said: “I’m incredibly frustrated. I thought I could have won my first Superbike race for the team.
“I was leading comfortably whilst watching my pit signals and the race was under control when another rider clashed with me and I crashed.
He added: “But I will be focusing on the positives from this meeting and can’t wait to get my Rizla Suzuki back on track at Brands Hatch later this week.
“We proved we have the bike, rider and team to challenge for race wins and that is my intention for the rest of the season.”
Sykes’s team spent the weekend honing the chassis settings on his Rizla Suzuki which paid dividends during qualifying.
Just as the chequered flag came out, Sykes posted his fastest time to seal third place behind pole-sitter Cal Crutchlow (HM Plant Honda) and Shane Byrne (Airwaves Ducati).
After finishing fifth in the first race, Sykes took the lead in the second chased by Crutchlow, Leon Haslam and Michael Rutter. Haslam was able to slip past his HM Plant Honda teammate at Old Hall on lap four to hunt down Sykes.
On lap 11 Haslam saw his chance to take the lead and made a controversial move on Sykes at the Hislop chicane.
As the Honda dived for the inside line the pair collided causing Sykes to tumble out of the race.
Haslam was able to continue, rejoining in fifth but the move saw him disqualified.
After more thrills and spills which saw Karl ‘Bomber’ Harris take a second tumble of the day, the race was red flagged when Crutchlow had a high-speed crash at Druids and on the same lap Dean Ellison and Steve Mercer were also fallers at Hilltop.
It left Byrne claiming a first double win in five years, when he finished ahead of James Ellison (Hydrex Bike Animal Honda) and Airwaves Ducati teammate Leon Camier, in third.
And it also proved a tough weekend for Denby Dale-based Hardinge Ice Valley Superbike privateer Tom Tunstall.
Having suffered major set-up issues at Thruxton and without opportunity to test prior to arriving at Oulton the team knew they had work to do.
But having started to progress further during Saturday’s dry free practice session, track conditions on Sunday were once again wet. And although Tunstall showed great pace, it robbed the team any opportunity to improve the set-up.
In the first race Tunstall cut his way through the field and moved up to second in the Superbike Cup placings. But by lap four Tunstall had started to drop back and, as the track dried, he struggled more and was forced to pit on lap seven to change a rear tyre before finishing ninth.
The track was fully dry for the second outing and Tunstall took to the grid with a revised setting.
As the laps went by, Tunstall’s pace got faster as he acclimatised himself with the bike set-up and was chasing Cup stalwart James Buckingham when the race was abandoned.
“It’s probably the happiest I’ve been after finishing a race in sixth!” said Tunstall.
“Once I got a feel for the bike my confidence was growing each lap. I’m hoping this setting will work well at Brands and I can concentrate on just racing the bike.
“It’s obvious we’re suffering from a lack of testing but the team have done a great job with the situation and conditions we had this weekend and I’m looking forward to getting the results we all deserve.”
The Bennetts British Superbike Championship returns to Brands Hatch this weekend to complete the previous snowed-off meeting.
Oulton Park race I: 1 Shane Byrne (Airwaves Ducati), 2 Leon Haslam (HM Plant Honda) +0.204s 3 Leon Camier (Airwaves Ducati) +2.604s, 4 Michael Rutter (North West 200 Ducati) +11.495s, 5 Tom Sykes (Rizla Suzuki) +20.015s 6 Cal Crutchlow (HM Plant Honda) +22.023s, 7 Michael Laverty (Relentless Suzuki by TAS) +37.259s 8 James Ellison (Hydrex Bike Animal Honda) +39.322s, 9 Tristan Palmer (Tena for Men Honda) +54.028s, 10 Stuart Easton (MSS Discovery Kawasaki) +57.885s.
Race II: 1 Shane Byrne (Airwaves Ducati), 2 James Ellison (Hydrex Bike Animal Honda) +4.247s, 3 Leon Camier (Airwaves Ducati) +8.027s, 4 Michael Laverty (Relentless Suzuki by TAS) +1 lap, 5 Stuart Easton (MSS Discovery Kawasaki) +1 lap, 6 Michael Rutter (North West 200 Ducati) +1 lap, 7 Simon Andrews (Jentin Racing/Lloyds British Yamaha) +1 lap, 8 Scott Smart (Hawk Kawasaki) +1 lap, 9 Atsushi Watanabe (Rizla Suzuki) +1 lap, 10 Billy McConnell (MSS Discovery Kawasaki) + 1 lap.
Championship Standings: 1 S Byrne (Airwaves Ducati) 95pts, 2 L Camier (Airwaves Ducati) 56, 3 C Crutchlow (HM Plant Honda) 55 = M Rutter (North West 200 Ducati) 55, 5 J Ellison (Hydrex-Bike Animal Honda) 46, 6 M Laverty (Relentless Suzuki by TAS) 39, 7 S Easton (MSS-Discovery Kawasaki) 34, 8 L Haslam (HM Plant Honda) 33, 9 T Sykes (Rizla Suzuki) 29, 10 T Palmer (TENA for Men Honda) 18.