Tom Sykes

10 Things To Look Forward To In 2017

The New Year has officially started, the real world of contracts finally lining up with the world of motorcycle racing. Riders who swapped factories are now free of their old contracts, their new contracts having commenced as the world greeted 2017. That also leaves them free to post about the new season on social media again. Aleix Espargaro was so keen to do so that he posted right on the stroke of midnight.

If the riders are excited, that gives fans reason to be excited too. Here are 10 reasons to look forward to 2017.

1. Six factories

For the first time since 2004, MotoGP has six different manufacturers* competing again. Unlike 2004, however, the level at which those manufacturers are competing is much more equal. In 2004, only Yamaha and Honda won races, though Ducati were regular visitors to the podium, and would win more consistently in 2005 and 2006. In 2016, four different manufacturers won races in the dry – Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, and Ducati – and all four were consistent podium threats.

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The Top Ten WorldSBK Riders Of 2016

Top ten lists are by their very nature subjective; beauty is in the eye of the beholder after all. From the moment the season started in Australia until the very end there was a great scrap for the title, with the fight going down to the wire in Qatar. But who was the best rider of 2016? This is the MotoMatters.com top ten riders of the 2016 WorldSBK season.

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Jerez Test Analysis: Would Jonathan Rea Really Beat The MotoGP Riders On His WorldSBK Kawasaki?

In a typically robust column written at the end of last week, David Miller, editor of Bikesportnews.com, suggested that the time which double World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea had set on Thursday at the combined WorldSBK and MotoGP test at Jerez had made the MotoGP bikes look a bit silly. Rea had ended the day as the fastest rider on the day, setting a time of 1'38.721, nearly a quarter of a second faster than Alvaro Bautista, who was riding the Ducati Desmosedici GP16 at the track.

Rea had set the time on a modified version of a road bike, costing something in the region of €300,000, beating the satellite Ducatis (estimated lease price, just shy of €2 million), satellite Hondas (official lease price €2 million, actual cost to lease about 50% higher than that), and the factory Suzuki, KTM and Desmosedici GP17 ("I'm sorry sir, you'll have to put your checkbook away, this one isn't for sale").

Miller draws a number of conclusions from this, some sound, some based more on hyperbole than reality. The claim that MotoGP is no longer a prototype series is unfounded. MotoGP bikes (and their predecessors, the 500cc two strokes and four strokes from whence they came) have never been prototypes, as Grand Prix racing was hobbled by rules from the birth of the series in 1949. The ban on forced induction, imposed in the 1930s when the excess of horsepower made possible by supercharging far outweighed contemporary braking technology, was left in place.

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Jerez Test, Day 3: MotoGP versus WorldSBK

With MotoGP and WorldSBK sharing the track Jonathan Rea led the way for most of the day. We sought out three opinions on the differences between the bikes....

As the sun set on the third day of the Jonathan Rea hogged the limelight with the second fastest time of the day. With MotoGP bikes sharing the track with WorldSBK runners the big story was that Rea spent most of Wednesday leading the way.

The question in the aftermath however was how does this reflect on both championships?

Rea was a tenth of a second off the fastest time of the day set by Hector Barbera. The speed and performance of the Kawasaki rider was hugely impressive but is this a sign that the production bikes can hold their own or is it a fortuitous confluence of circumstances?

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Tom Sykes And Jonathan Rea: Kawasaki Getting Up To Speed For 2017

It took Kawasaki until last year to finally win a WorldSBK manufacturers title. Having retained the crown in 2016 the Japanese factory will have to dig deep in 2017

Winter testing is a time to take stock of what worked well on your bike in the past and what now needs to improve. Kawasaki has won over half of the races in the last three years, 39 victories from 76 races, but despite these successes the team are working hard to find improvements.

The final four rounds of the season saw Chaz Davies and Ducati dominate proceedings and the Italian manufacturer's renaissance over the last 12 months has made it the early favourite for title success in 2017. New regulations will see split throttle bodies now outlawed and there are also changes to the battery regulations.

While Jonathan Rea has been running his bike in this specification for most of 2016 his teammate, Tom Sykes, has not. The Englishman spent last off-season commenting about the lower inertia engine he is now having to deal with a significant change in the mass around the engine unit. Whereas in the past Sykes used a battery in his ZX10R to maintain lower inertia he will now have to revert to a crankshaft with a generator that will increase the engine inertia. The higher inertia was a problem for Sykes in 2015 and he had hoped that the changes for this year would offer him advantages compared to Rea. That didn't transpire and now the Yorkshire rider is clearly feeling the pressure.

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2016 Jerez World Superbike Race 2 Notes - Down To The Wire

Jonathan Rea stands on the verge of defending his World Superbike title after finishing second at Jerez in Race 2. The Northern Irishman came out on top of a tussle with his Kawasaki teammate, Tom Sykes, and will enter the final round of the season with an almost unassailable 48 point lead.

Rea and Sykes had a typically spirited fight for second but once the champion was in front it was difficult to see him being beaten. Sykes, despite having a faster bike in different areas of the track, was consistently unable to get past his teammate. As has been the case so often in the past when the Kawasaki riders fought on track, it was Rea who gained the upper hand and almost certainly claimed the title.

Speaking after the race Rea said that the form of Chaz Davies, who dominated the weekend in Spain and claimed both race wins, means that the title permutations could be irrelevant given the Ducati riders form. With Sykes needing to win both races in Qatar and Davies having won five of the last six Rea will know that his 48 point advantage is almost certainly too great a margin for Sykes to overhaul.

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2016 Magny-Cours World Superbike Sunday Notes - Opportunity Knocks

It was smart strategy that won Chaz Davies the opening race of the French round of WorldSBK but in Race 2 it was patience and perseverance that won out. The Welshman clocked up his third win in four races and each have come in very different circumstances. A dominant victory in Germany started this rich vein of form but France showed how strong Davies has become. Having the mental strength to stick to his guns, and his intermediate tyre choice, in the opening race was contrasted with his patience in waiting for an opportunity to pass the Kawasaki riders in Race 2.

Afterwards Davies said that “the Kawasaki works in such a different way to the Ducati that it's very hard to get past them and our laptimes are so similar that sometimes you need to wait for a mistake or an opening.” On Sunday that opening came when Jonathan Rea tried to dive down the inside of Tom Sykes into the Adelaide Hairpin and as the two green machines squabbled for track position Davies was able to pick them off on acceleration.

It was a perfect move and one that left the Ducati rider in front of Rea and quickly trying to open a lead. That lead would turn into a second almost instantly and afterwards Rea said “I wanted to attack Chaz but he did such a good job to open that gap and I couldn't get back to him.”

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2016 Magny-Cours World Superbike Saturday Notes - Self Belief Wins Through

The decision on whether to be conservative or aggressive with your choices wasn't the key in Magny-Cours rather it was just about having belief in your convictions. With a drying track Chaz Davies was one of the few riders to start the race with intermediate tires and the gamble proved worth the risk for Davies as he romped to victory.

In the early stages with a wet track Davies was a sitting duck to riders with more grip from full wet weather tires. The Welshman even said afterwards that “I was so slow that I wouldn't have been surprised if someone had hit me!”

When the track started to dry the race came to Davies and rather than being a sitting duck he became a shark and picked off his rivals. It was an inspired race by Davies who rarely seemed to have push but instead kept calm and allowed the race to come to him.

Having made his decision on the grid - based on track conditions, the increasing temperature and the knowledge that the surface doesn't dry as fast as others - the Ducati rider raced accordingly. There were precious few heroics from Davies, but with a minimum pit stop time of 45 seconds, he knew that as long as he could stay upright he had a decided advantage. The tire compounds used in the slick and intermediate tires are quite similar and for Davies this gave him even more confidence in his decision.

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Lausitzring Lottery-A German WorldSBK roundup

It was a weekend of contrasts in Germany. Four weathers in a race weekend is usually something associated with Phillip Island, but with 30°C temperatures having welcomed the WorldSBK paddock from their summer break, the heat gradually transitioned to a downpour on a cold and windy Sunday.

With Chaz Davies and Jonathan Rea claiming the spoils in the races there was little reason to think that this was a standout weekend, but in many ways the German round of WorldSBK could prove pivotal when the season concludes.

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2016 Laguna Seca WorldSBK Review: Looking Back at Laguna, Forward to 2017

The WorldSBK season goes on its annual summer break with the championship suddenly poised on a much finer edge than was imaginable just a week ago.

Jonathan Rea's dominance of the current campaign has been almost unparalleled. However, his run of 17 consecutive podium finishes to open the season is now over and suddenly he faces a threat from within for his title defense.

An engine issue left Rea on the sidelines in Race 2, his championship lead immediately cut to 46 points. It is still a comfortable margin for Rea but suddenly doubt can creep into the Team 65 side of the Kawasaki garage. Tom Sykes' win on Sunday marked a return to the winner's circle for the former champion and while he is still an outside bet for the title he is at least back in realistic range of Rea.

Equal spoils for Kawasaki riders?

A win apiece for Rea and Sykes left them both with reason to cheer in California but it was Sykes that will leave the happier rider. The 2013 champion left Laguna Seca with 45 points and some momentum entering the summer break.

Sykes followed his teammate home in Race 1 but took advantage of Rea's retirement to take 25 points from his rival. Having crashed in Assen earlier in the season the tally stands at one retirement each but the 46 point lead still gives Rea a very healthy title cushion.

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