After prematurely announcing that Michael Laverty would spearhead TAS Suzuki's 2004 British Supersport assault, the team has now revealed that teenage sensation Tom Sykes and ex-British 250cc Champion Adrian Coates will instead race the factory backed GSX-R600s.

Laverty was rather embarrassingly unveiled as headlining Suzuki's Supersport assault on October 31st - before he had signed a binding deal. He has since been picked up by 2002 series champion's Monstermob Ducati.

Nevertheless, TAS are buoyed by having now clinched the signature of 18-year-old Sykes - touted as one of the most promising young riders in British racing, and a potential title contender in 2004.

With experience from racing in the Supersport Championship this year, and finishing runner-up in the cut-throat Junior Superstock Championship the year before, Sykes is hungry for success.

"I am delighted to be riding for TAS Suzuki in the British Supersport series, this is a dream come true for me," smiled Sykes. "I am itching to get racing on the new GSX-R600. I am sure it is going to be right on the pace from the start and I want to prove what I am capable of next year and win plenty of races and challenge for the title. I will be using the experience of the TAS Suzuki team and my team-mate Adrian Coates to help me to be a front runner in 2004."

"The ball is now rolling and we can't wait to get racing," began team manager Philip Neil. "Tom Sykes has had an association with Suzuki in the past and everybody you ask about him rate the lad as one of the most impressive talents in British racing. I agree and I am thrilled he has agreed to ride for us and we are both committed to wining races and challenging for the Championship in 2004.

"He has proven he can do the lap times to run at the front of the Championship," added Neil. "With a good team behind him and on the new GSX-R600, we will be able to help him to be more consistent and we know he will just get quicker and quicker. He is an exciting prospect and an ambitious racer at heart, his year in Junior Superstock proved that beyond doubt."

Meanwhile, TAS Suzuki hope former Grand Prix racer - and British 250cc Champion - Coates (middle pic, on a Padgett's Honda during the 2003 season) will provide the team with valuable experience of British circuits and bike set-up.

"It's great to be riding for a Factory backed team on a new GSX-R600 that is going to be a missile straight from the crate," said 29-year-old Coates. "I have a lot of experience that I can offer the team and I hope to be using it to win as many races and go for the Championship in 2004. It is great to be in a team based in Ulster that will be competing at the highest level in the British Championship. I hope it gives more riders from Ulster encouragement to get out and race and I'm sure my close proximity to the team base will help throughout the season."

"With Tom's youth and Adrian's experience, we reckon we have the balance just about right," stated Neil. "Both riders will be getting equal machinery and I am convinced we will have one of the strongest teams on the grid next year."

TAS Suzuki will receive its first 2004 spec motorcycle late in December and is planning a programme of pre-season foreign testing to explore the performance of the bike and Pirelli tyres - TAS will be an official Pirelli Europe development team. Both riders will be using a personal team trainer to maximise their fitness and psychological preparations for the 2004 season as well.

Famous for dominating the Isle of Man TT and world road racing, TAS is now turning its attention to short circuit glory and the prestigious British Supersport Championship. With six TT victories in the last two years and the enviable record of holding the fastest two-wheeled lap record in the UK, it is a team with impressive credentials.

"The ability of TAS Suzuki to win races is proven by its track record over the last two years on the roads," said Ichiro Kondo, marketing director of Suzuki GB. "Combine that with riders of the calibre of Tom Sykes and Adrian Coates and we have a team that is going to be challenging for wins week in and week out.

"Tom is one of the brightest prospects in UK racing and we are delighted he's going to be racing for us in 2004. Adrian's experience will be invaluable to the whole squad and it will be interesting to see what results he can achieve on a very competitive bike.

"The new GSX-R600 is going to be competitive right from the off and we have confidence in it and TAS Suzuki to race for the title in 2004," Kondo concluded.



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