2018 Brno WorldSBK Subscriber Special: Teammate Games Force Czech mate

Internal team rivalries played out in Brno with very different results

“I was going to make it...or I wasn't,” was how King Kenny Roberts summed up one of his Grand Prix victories in the late seventies. The triple 500GP world champion knew the importance of momentum and psychology on a race track better than anyone, and knew that at times, riders need to take a win it or bin it mentality.

That mentality was at the front everyone's minds as they watched last weekend's Czech WorldSBK round, where the importance of coming out on top of an internal team battle bubbled under the surface. On Saturday Jonathan Rea claimed his 60th career victory, but on Sunday the tensions of four years at Kawasaki overflowed.

Since joining Kawasaki at the start of the 2015 season Jonathan Rea has amassed three titles and 45 victories. He was able to assert himself on the team from the outset and his success has made the team gravitate towards him at the expense of his teammate, Tom Sykes. The 2013 WorldSBK champion has been outshone and outpaced, and on Sunday the tensions boiled over.

Down and out

After numerous on track incidents during the course of their tenure as teammates, at Brno it led to a crash. Having come close to contact on the opening lap of Race 2, within minutes they clashed and Rea was left in the gravel and with his rage clear for all to see. The triple world champion tried to overtake Sykes on the way through one of the many “S bends” of Brno.

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Sykes has to realize that Rea's success means they will treat Rea as the #1 rider even though Sykes brought them a Championship in 2013 - but I could understand Sykes frustration of being bumped from the #1 rider slot since he helped develop the Kawasaki into a Championship winning bike after joining them in 2010.

  • He came really close to winning the championship in '12 (lost it by 1/2 a point to Biaggi),
  • He won it in '13
  • He lost it in '14 to Guintoli (at the last race of the year) by 6 points, after he'd had a 44 point lead with 6 races to go 
  • Then Rea joins Kawasaki and just dominates the series and his teammate (Rea's 92 races, 45 wins, 81 podiums to Sykes' 90 races, 11 wins, 57 podiums), beating Sykes by 149 points in '15, 51 points in '16, 183 points in '17 and 91 points (so far) in '18

Over the 90 races where they've both been on a Kawasaki (Sykes missed both Portimao races last year) Rea has finished ahead of Sykes 67 times (74.4%), and in the last 38 races (2017+) Rea is up 32-6 (84.2%).

His best move is probably to leave Kawasaki, and head to Yamaha if the rumors are true. I don't know if he'll be able to regularly beat Rea on the R1, but I think being out from under Rea's shadow will help.

I've always rated Tom Sykes - you don't win a championship (and come so close to two more) through good fortune alone. He's struggled a bit due to championship rule tweaks but I firmly believe that he's still got more in him - and I'm really keen to see him on a different bike next year. I hope it's a case that he jumps before he's pushed. 

But it's a little harder to meaure the dip in support that might accrue to Rea after this incident. After the famous Rea/Davies 'cruising on the racing line' incident of last year, Rea was very quick with the defence and rationalisation of his own actions. 

This incident with Sykes looked a lot more like a racing incident, in my opinion, and more understandable, than the incident with Rea/Davies the year before. As Team Punkass has explained, Rea is already beating his team mate to an overwhelming degree,  and he has just become the most winning rider, ever, in the category. Maybe Rea could just be a bit more reflective and consider the merits of the more widely held view, that this incident was just the result of two blokes going very hard to do their best.

Rea is just such a remarkable, rider this sort of a more reflective response would only build his reputation.


Given my recollection of Mr Rea's Honda years, where he routinely over-rode the Ten-Kate bike past its, or his, capabilities, he might do well to reflect on the people he took out during that period, 2011 being a salient example.  If I recall correctly, it wasn't a short list.


... Might there be a bit of backstage directing happening here? Not the crash, but the subsequent media coverage. A while back even some on here were saying wsbk had become boring, lacked any drama, that these guys were just too nice to each other. And the classic motorsport plot always has rivals who hate each other’s guts.

if that is what’s going on, I hope neither Rea nor Sykes buy into it too much, or at least keeps it in perspective.


Wasn't that part of Dorna's plan? Build rivalries and animosity?  Didn’t a lot of the superbike guys (especially the English) say they weren’t going to buy into it? 

I’m sure it’s no secret that the Spanish (and Italian and Greek and any hot blooded nation etc) love a good fiery soap opera and I’m sure Dorna is more than comfortable steering the sport that way, as evident by their recent actions in MotoGP. The fanning the flames of the Rossi/Marquez beef, the tribal “colours”.  It is starting to get a bit all “footbally”….

I was lucky enough to walk through the Kawasaki box at donington. And spent some time in the Kawasaki hospitality. Very interesting to have a coffee with Pere Riba. Tom Sykes was a bit cranky after missing the podium on the Sunday. But I saw Tom at the Gandhi restaurant castle donington that night & he was all smiles again.

Great to see Yamaha getting good results. I hope this continues & SBK goes well. The V4 Ducati should add a bit of spice next year.

Don't get me wrong I have e lot of respect for Jonathan Rea as a rider. Just don't like him as much as a person. 

Remember Scott Russell won the championship for Kawasaki in 1993, then no chip for Kawasaki for twenty years. Tom Sykes won the championship for Kawasaki after twenty years in the wilderness. Tom Sykes should get some respect for that & all the hard work he has put in.

Good to see SBK generating more interest.