WSBK Rider of the Year vote: 1st

You voted in your thousands, but there can only be one winner... This is's top ten countdown to the 2012 World Superbike Rider of the Year as voted for by you!
1. Tom Sykes

Nationality: British
Team: Kawasaki Racing
Bike: Kawasaki ZX-10R
Wins: 4
Podiums: 13
Championship points: 357.5
Championship position: 2nd

Everyone loves an underdog and, over the last decade at least, underdogs haven't come more perennial than Kawasaki. It's a status that makes Tom Sykes's achievements with the manufacturer in 2012 all the more poignant.

Indeed, Kawasaki's statistics of five wins, sixteen podiums and nine pole positions look impressive even before you consider that the Japanese marque had previously managed just two weather-affected WSBK wins between 2001 and 2011, but thanks to Sykes – and Loris Baz -, Kawasaki went from underdogs to top dogs in almost the blink of an eye in 2012.

It's difficult to believe now, but Sykes very nearly didn't even have a ride coming into the 2012 World Superbike season, a somewhat disappointing 2011 campaign with the new ZX-10R apparently putting him on the cusp of unemployment.

However, Kawasaki opted for rider continuity and instead chose to reshuffle behind the scenes, enlisting Provec to take over the running of the factory outfit in an effort to unlock the potential of a bike that had shown flashes of pace in its first season, albeit not consistently.

The changes were immediately evident during testing, Sykes frequently appearing towards the top of the timesheets before the season got underway. It was promise he fulfilled early on by claiming pole positions and podiums in the opening two rounds, the latter something he had only previously achieved once before coming into the season.

However, if it was a novelty to see a 'green machine' performing so well at the start of the season, it wasn't long before we began to expect that Sykes would dominate qualifying day, the Briton's startling one-lap form carrying him to nine pole positions in 14 attempts in 2012.

Eventually, Sykes was sipping the winners' champagne, though his impressive turn at Monza would be overshadowed somewhat by an early stoppage that left him with just half points for his efforts - few could have predicted how critical that moment would become later in the year…

Ironically, even though the idea of having a Kawasaki battling for wins on a regular basis would have been almost unthinkable before the year, Sykes's excellent qualifying form did at times bring into focus some relatively lacklustre race days where the ZX-10R appeared to struggle for pace over a longer distance.

Nonetheless, Sykes kept plugging away, so much so that when Max Biaggi and Marco Melandri allowed errors to creep into their title campaigns, the 27-year-old would – almost from nowhere – find himself within striking distance of a late championship challenge.

Tagged as: Kawasaki , Tom Sykes

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Sykes, French WSBK Race 1 2012
Sykes, French WSBK Race 1 2012
Sykes, French WSBK Race 1 2012
Sykes, French WSBK Race 1 2012
Sykes, French WSBK 2012
Sykes, Jonathan Rea and Melandri, WSBK race2,Thai WSBK 2017
Sykes and Melandri over the line, WSBK race2,Thai WSBK 2017
Melandri and Sykes, WSBK race2,Thai WSBK 2017
Melandri and Sykes, WSBK race2,Thai WSBK 2017
Melandri and Sykes, WSBK race2,Thai WSBK 2017
Jonathan Rea, Melandri and Sykes, WSBK race2,Thai WSBK 2017
Alex Lowes and Sykes, WSBK race2,Thai WSBK 2017
Davies and Sykes, WSBK race2,Thai WSBK 2017
Sykes, WSBK race2,Thai WSBK 2017
Jonathan Rea and Sykes team celebration, WSBK race2,Thai WSBK 2017
Melandri and Sykes, WSBK race2,Thai WSBK 2017
Sykes and Melandri, last lap, WSBK race2,Thai WSBK 2017
Sykes and Melandri, WSBK race2,Thai WSBK 2017

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December 30, 2012 3:41 PM

Sykes was fantastic in 2012. It seems though that the Kawa (while super-fast) still struggles a bit with tyre wear, while Sykes has to be so physical & on the limit for the entire race. That effort & commitment along with tyre issues meant Sykes was the hardest working rider - pretty tough to compete over 2 long races with guys with better bikes (over race distance). The bike (& TS) has the speed, but it looks like they still need to find a bit more over full race distance. looking fwd to 2013 WSBK - it could well be the best (and last??) great & competitive WSBK season.


December 30, 2012 9:59 PM

@ Fairplay & RG500. Yes, whether or not his personality and antics are popular outside Italy anyone with a brain (Brit or other) would admit that Max is a Class Act. However - you are overlooking a couple of relevant points, such as.. * the fact that TS made few errors & took a Kawasaki to Poles & Podiums like no-one has managed for a very long time. * Max was on the Aprilia - a fully developed bike originally designed as a MotoGP bike - would he have taken the title if he was on a Kawasaki? * Max dropped the ball and made rider errors that nearly threw away his WC (Melandri managed to it away) - Sykes brought the Kwak home always - it took a machine failure or a Badovini for Tom to DNF. I didn't vote, but I'm happy to see Sykes get the kudos for a phenomenal effort.

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