WSBK » 1 January 1901
The Brits - WSBK Season Preview
His cause isn't being helped by fellow rookie team-mate Ben Spies grabbing all of the headlines during testing, but Sykes has shown a consistent linear of improvement as the off-season has progressed, even if a foot injury hasn't helped.
His performances at Brands Hatch and Donington Park last season have already shown what he is capable of on a Superbike, while the new Yamaha R1 will certainly be no slouch, so the emphasis will be on how quickly he can learn new circuits. Fellow BSB alumni Ryuichi Kiyonari showed what he can do when the element of a new circuit is eliminated, something that should give Sykes confidence through the year.
With that in mind, the youngster should find himself creeping up the timesheets as the year progresses.
Leon Haslam - Stiggy Honda
After several seasons of being close, although not close enough, to the British Superbike title, Leon Haslam is turning his back on the domestic championship for a second shot on the WSBK stage.
A return to the series he vacated at the end of 2004, while a deal to race the new privateer Stiggy Honda may not make him an obvious contender this season, Haslam has nonetheless shown a good turn of pace so far in testing.
With Stiggy Racing keen to do for Honda what Sterilgarda has done for Ducati in recent years, Haslam is in a good, largely pressure free surrounding for his first season back as a World Superbike rider.
In terms of pure speed, Haslam has shown already that he can be a top ten contender in 2009, although the sustainability of his performance may depend on whether Stiggy's so far seamless transition from Supersport to Superbikes is maintained through the season.
Can Haslam win a race? It won't be easy, although the man himself admits podiums – and the occasional Ten Kate scalp - are perhaps a more realistic target. Of the five British riders, Haslam is probably the 'dark horse' of the quintet in that both he and the team are something of an unknown quantity…
Tommy Hill - Althea Honda
Although somewhat overshadowed by his four countrymen, Tommy Hill is nonetheless a popular addition to this year's grid, not least because of the trials and tribulations that afflicted him last year.
After a year on the sidelines nursing a myriad of injuries, the good news for Hill is that he is feeling fitter than ever before, while Althea Honda have not only retained their faith in him, but they have promoted him to a Superbike position after barely turning a Supersport wheel with them all year.
The flip side, however, is that Hill heads into 2009 without a season of Supersport action under his belt, one that would have allowed him to revise new circuits and become acquainted with the World Superbike paddock.
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