Kawasaki has confirmed Tom Sykes will leave the team at the end of the 2018 World Superbike championship after nine years at the Japanese manufacturer.

Sykes, considered a key part to developing the dominate ZX-10RR package, is set to search for a new team following the mutual agreement to split with Kawasaki. The 2013 World Superbike champion, who also finished runner-up in 2012, 2014 and 2016, has secured the all-time highest tally of Superpoles on 45 which have all been taken with Kawasaki.

Sykes feels it is the right time to leave the KRT squad, having recently clashed with Jonathan Rea and his crew chief Pere Riba, and wanted to produce the announcement during the summer break to end continuing speculation on his future.

“I feel the time has arrived; the moment to make a change in my career and seek new challenges,” Sykes said. “Having the motivation to push to your limits and that of your machine is all the more important when you look for the victory at every race and I feel I have given all I can within KRT.

“I am now the best rider I have ever been, and I have the experience and performance to keep winning. So now I have decided to make a step away from the KRT project for 2019 and look for new goals and challenges. I will now concentrate to finish on the podium for the last four rounds of 2018.

“I am determined to enjoy my racing and making this announcement effectively ends all speculation. The timing of this big career decision is never easy but it is especially difficult as my personal life also faces big changes.

“Regarding this I feel the weight of pressure has been slightly lifted from my shoulders and I am sure 2019 will allow me to operate at full capacity.”

Since joining Kawasaki at the start of 2010, including one year with PBM, all 34 of Sykes’s race wins have come with KRT and all but one of his podium finishes (his maiden World Superbike podium came in a Suzuki wildcard outing at Donington Park in 2008).

KRT team boss Guim Roda accepts the decision is best for all parties and is eager to see Sykes end the year on a high without the distraction of his future overhanging at the team.

“It has been a busy few weeks recently and for sure we have talked many hours internally,” Sykes said. “In the most recent rounds Tom’s concentration was not able to be the best, as he was dealing with a big decision - apart from some family points to solve - this has taken a lot of his concentration over the past two years.

“I hope this final confirmation will give us room to finish the year in the same way we dominated in Assen. We have big job to do until end of year, so is not time to say good bye yet.

“Of course this is an announcement of intentions for 2019 but the more important is to work hard to finish the year with the same determination that we started with.”

Former World Superbike race winner Leon Haslam has been strongly tipped as Sykes’s replacement, stepping up from the JG Speedfit Kawasaki squad in the Bennetts British Superbike championship, while Pata Yamaha’s Michael van der Mark has also been rumoured with a potential move to Kawasaki.