Tom Sykes and Joan Lascorz will form an unchanged rider line-up for Kawasaki in the 2012 World Superbike Championship, it has been announced.
Though Lascorz was anticipated to stay on board after finishing his maiden Superbike season in 11th overall, Sykes's future had been thrown into jeopardy when outgoing team manager Paul Bird claimed the Briton, together with his own PBM operation, would not be retained for 2012
Nonetheless, having insisted he was still in talks with the manufacturer, Sykes, who won Kawasaki's first race in five years with success at the rain-lashed Nurburgring round, has indeed signed a contract extension that will take him to the end of the 2012 season.
“I'm very happy to be continuing with Kawasaki and the Ninja ZX-10R in 2012. I believe the bike has good potential and we saw some of that come through in 2011 with a race win in Germany and Superpole at Misano. These are the kind of results I am looking to achieve in the coming season on a regular basis and I really believe we can do this.
“I have a lot of confidence in Kawasaki and the team around me, so if we can improve a couple of points with the set-up of the bike on the track which I feel are restricting performance this would be a big step forward for us in the final results. I am looking forward to re-starting our test programme again very soon.”
Despite the familiar rider line-up, the team will undergo a series of changes behind the scenes ahead of 2012, with Kawasaki Heavy Industries assuming full control in Japan, even if the operation will be based in Spain under the guidance of Guim Roda, who has masterminded Kawasaki's success in the World Supersport Championship since 2009.
“We are very happy to run with Tom in 2012,” said Roda. “Kawasaki always tries to keep the people it has in place and Tom has been making a good job in the last two years with Kawasaki. He has the potential to go fast, as he has shown in 2011, and now we have to repeat that for full race distance at each round. He is young and determined, which are good combinations for a fast rider.
“I'm sure working closer with Marcel, his new crew chief, and taking part in all the tests we have planned means he will take one step more and he will be able to fight for the podium places at every race. Let's see what he can show us all next year."
Kawasaki signed Lascorz and Chris Vermeulen to front its 2011 WSBK campaign, though the latter made only sporadic appearances due to injury and has not been retained for 2012. Sykes, meanwhile, was retained with help from Paul Bird, but this new deal will see him receive a full Kawasaki contract.
This will be Sykes's fourth season at WSBK level having made his full-time debut in 2009 with Yamaha. As well as his win at the Nurburgring - which also signalled his first podium since a wild-card aboard a Suzuki in 2008 -, Sykes has scored two pole positions for Kawasaki.