Rizla Suzuki debutant Tom Sykes will start from an amazing eighth place in tomorrow's eleventh round of the British Superbike Championship at Brands Hatch, directly behind team-mate John Reynolds, who secured a front row berth in qualifying.

The 18-year old is taking part in his first ever Superbike race meeting, and has stunned the regular riders with how quickly he has taken to riding the powerful, slick-shod Rizla Suzuki GSX-R1000. The Huddersfield rider, who normally competes in the Supersport class on a 600cc machine with road tyres, finished less than half a second away from pole position, an astounding feat of bravery, skill and courage that has had the entire paddock whispering about his future potential as a champion.

"I am loving the experience of riding a Superbike, it is a dream come true for me," the youngster admitted, "The second row is way above what I would have hoped for and I think having such a good team behind me is being a big help. I can't wait until the races tomorrow to see what sort of results I can get."

Sykes is standing in for Rizla Suzuki GSX-R1000 regular rider Yukio Kagayama, who is recovering from a broken pelvis he suffered at the previous round of the BSB series at Cadwell Park.

JR's fourth place front row finish was a fraction away from pole position and, despite using a sticky qualifying tyre, was slower than his lap from this morning's practice session on a hard race compound tyre that offered less outright grip.

"That was a very frustrating Super 12 session," the former champion admitted, "We went into it with the fastest lap in practice and were confident we could creep under the 46-second mark, but a combination of bad luck and timing meant I never really had the opportunity to attack the circuit.

"I ended up crashing right at the end at Paddock Hill, possibly because I was trying too hard on my final fast lap. I was lucky and got up to walk away and I am actually more confident with the bike on race rubber than the qualifying tyres we used this afternoon. On a positive note, that means tomorrow's races should be good for us and starting from the inside of the front row going into the first corner is almost as good as pole here.

"Well done to Tom taking a second row start in his first ever Superbike race. His progress this weekend has been a wonder to behold and, if he gets much faster, he could be snapping at my heels at the front tomorrow!"

Both Rizla Suzuki riders fell during the dying minutes of the Super 12 qualifying session, but neither was hurt.

"Right at the end, I tipped into Druids very quickly and, just as I was coming off the brakes and onto the throttle on the exit, I lost the front end," Sykes explained, "It was a close run thing, I thought I had saved it, but it just got away from me."

Qualifying session was so close that only half a second covered the top ten, which was headed by Ducati's Michael Rutter.

"Tom is doing an almost unbelievable job for his first time on a Superbike," chief technician Les Pearson confirmed, "We have worked today on getting him more comfortable on the bike and giving him more grip. To give him more grip also means that the predictability of the bike is reduced so, while it is faster, it takes more experience to make the most of it, but he has taken it all in his stride. His raw riding talent is awesome.

"He could finish in the top eight in tomorrow's races, which would be fantastic. From the very first time we put him on track, I knew that Tom was something a bit special on a motorcycle and he has more than proved that in qualifying today."



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