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Philosophical Sykes takes rough with the smooth

24 September 2012

Tom Sykes says he has no choice but to accept the frustrating outcome to his race day at Portimao after suffering a cruel technical-induced retirement just hours after manoeuvring himself into a potential run at the 2012 World Superbike Championship title.

A day that would be defined by differing fortunes, Sykes began the event chasing down a 26.5 point deficit to Max Biaggi in the overall standings, a margin that looked set to increase when he got a poor start from pole position and proceeded to slip back into the chasing pack.

A red flag on the sixth lap gave Sykes the chance to alter the settings on the Kawasaki, a move that would revitalise his fortunes when the race was restarted as he scythed into the lead on lap three and held on to the chequered flag.

With Biaggi finishing in fourth place and Marco Melandri – who was also 17 points ahead – failing to finish, Sykes was suddenly transformed from title outsider to Biaggi's main challenger, the pair now split by 14.5 points.

Eager to build on his momentum in the fully dry conditions of race two, Sykes looked in a good position to at least beat Biaggi as he circulated in third place. However, when smoke began billowing from the back of his ZX-10R, those burgeoning title dreams would already be dealt a potentially terminal blow.

Indeed, while Sykes had always regarded himself as an outsider with two rounds to go, he admits it is difficult to accept coming away from Portimao with an even larger 30.5 point margin to tackle with one round remaining having gotten closer than ever just hours earlier.

“We have had some good luck and also had some bad luck,” he said. “Obviously on the good luck side in race one, in the first start, we were really struggling. We made two big changes to the bike after the red flag so on the restart it was a different motorcycle and I was able to do what I wanted with it. I felt more comfortable. So a big thanks to the team and Kawasaki for the snap decision to make those changes.

“I was feeling confident for race two because we had done a lot of work this weekend and I definitely felt we could have had a very strong race. Honestly I felt I could have been top two in that second race, or maybe even better, but it is what it is.

“Everybody has seen what happens in racing. Melandri has been relatively on the pace this weekend and through a change of luck of his own he went out of two races. So anything and everything can happen. We had a win in race one, we had problems in race two, and that is what happens sometimes.

“We are racing at a very high level and sometimes you get dealt this card. I accept it even though it is hard to take having got to within 14.5 points of the lead after race one. I felt I could have reduced that gap again. But it was not to be, so what can you do? We got to France next, pick up where we left off and try to have a strong weekend.”

Despite the unsatisfying outcome of his day, Sykes is now in a good position to seal the runners-up spot in the standings having moved eight points ahead of Melandri.


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