Superpole, as a means of WorldSBK riders qualifying for their final grid positions, has taken many forms over the years but since Sykes’ first Superpole win at Imola for Kawasaki in 2010, he has collected more pole position trophies and sponsor’s watches than anybody else before. And he has completed all of his Superpole success riding on Kawasaki machinery.
At his beloved Donington, with a late push to take his second Superpole of the 2018 season, Sykes managed to score one more top grid spot than even the legendary Troy Corser, who’s record of 43 Sykes equalled in Australia during the first round of the current season.
Sykes was awarded with his 44th trophy by his fellow countryman, and former racer Roger Burnett, the rider who took the very first WorldSBK pole position prize at Donington Park in 1988.
There could be no better venue for Sykes to attain that record Superpole success at than the circuit he has recorded nine race wins on in recent times – Donington. Or as some have called it recently, ‘Doningtom’. Celebrating his Superpole success in the Superpole presentation ceremony with a specially designed ‘Superpole Man’ costume and cape, Sykes was back in race action soon after, leading several laps of race one and then taking another podium finish.
As well as all his Superpole success, Sykes is fifth in the all-time record books in terms of WorldSBK race victories, with 34 race wins to his credit, not to mention his prized world title in 2013. All of this makes him much more than a one-lap specialist, even if he is now the greatest ever in this kinetic art form. His most recent race win for KRT, for example, came at Assen just a few weeks ago.
Tom Sykes, stated: “Scoring this record at Donington is special because it is on home soil. It really adds to it all. You are in front of your home fans, friends and family. It is a nice achievement and I have always looked at pole position as proof that you are the fastest man on the grid. That is how I always saw Troy Corser. It is just conformation of that. It still fills me with confidence because a lot of the people in the past have said ‘he is only good for one lap,’ but I always found this quite funny. I always thought that once I turned that one lap speed into 23-lap speed everyone would see my potential. Anyway, 44 Superpole certainly takes some racking up and it is a big personal achievement. In Superpole, I always just try to get a feel for my bike on the out lap, after coming from using a race tyre to a qualifier. I always feel that once I have the package underneath me, and I know I have enough wear and heat in those tyres, it is all about building up. Once I cross the start-finish line to start a fast lap, I know what I need to do. The out lap and the ‘Q’ lap are almost like chalk and cheese. You go from such a calm feeling to an attacking feeling. That is just how it works and how it has done for me. You have to have 100% confidence in your bike because you know you have to put that front end where you want, open that throttle a lot earlier in advance of where you would on a race tyre, so there are many parameters. It is certainly a lot more demanding and on a knife-edge compared to what, perhaps, a race lap would be. And all my Superpoles were done on a Kawasaki. I have certainly helped their tally of pole positions and they have helped me.”
Guim Roda, KRT Team manager, stated: “When I was in the pit this morning and I saw Tom coming up on the record I had a goose pimples in my arms. This does not happen normally on a race weekend. This is because is always incredible when you not only achieve success, but also even make something that is part of history. Now Tom has this credit to be part of history. I think for many years when you see the pole list will see the name of Tom Sykes at the top. This is always nice to get, so I’m so happy for him. Another curious point, but not less interesting, is that he got this record 100% with Kawasaki bikes. So Kawasaki must be very proud too. We prepared some funny celebrations after his success, so now I think we will try to produce some T-shirts – because many people start to ask for them!”
Danilo Casonato, Tom Sykes’ Data Engineer, stated: “Basically, Tom’s Superpole performance is because of his riding style. Normally his corners are tight and this is an advantage when you have a lot of grip with a Q tyre. You can automatically use the Q tyre much more than other riders. This is the main question. When you close the corner, automatically you take fewer metres to make the corner, then you are ready to open the gas and you use the tyre more. And if you have grip, you can use it.”
Marcel Duinker, Tom Sykes’ Crew Chief, stated: “Tom has proven that he has an outstanding ability extract the maximum from his usual bike, but with extra grippy tyres. He feels the limit of his machine, his package, his tyres, more quickly than other riders. When you go out on a qualifying tyre, you make your out lap, and in that moment he is able to extract more performance from his tyres than the average Superbike rider. His ability to directly find the very, very limit of the tyres, and do this for one lap is due to his sense of the bike, its feedback, and his riding style is also part of this process. This combination has been successful 44 times in the last couple of years. I believe that this record will stand for quite some time.”