After moving from contender to race winner in the BSB championship this year, and then becoming an instant star in his Rizla Suzuki wildcard rides at the Brands Hatch and Donington World Superbike rounds, Tom Sykes has been snapped up to ride for the officially-supported Yamaha Motor Italia World Superbike team in 2009.
His second place at Donington was a particular eye-opener, even in the underfoot conditions which may have favoured local riders’ track expertise. But in a season such as this, four strong rides and a second place in arguably the most competitive WSB contest since the early nineties has been enough to convince the currently riderless official Yamaha squad for 2009 to get one rider signed up early. They have also staked their flag on youth, as Sykes is a relatively young 23 by WSB standards, and therefore still on an upwards learning curve.
The lack of official news about the expected exit of Noriyuki Haga and the probable exit of Troy Corser from the team speaks volumes at present, but it is expected that the Yamaha WSB team may well go for an experienced WSB or MotoGP rider – Sylvain Guintoli perhaps – to jump on the other machine, but only if both their current stars hit the escape button.
Max Biaggi to Yamaha is a delicious thought, but it is understood that it would be too much to have Biaggi in a team based no more than tens of meters from Rossi’s MotoGP crew in Gerno Di Lesmo, Monza. On a corporate level, it would take a lot for Yamaha to forgive the badmouthing Biaggi gave them in the latter stages of his GP career in Yamaha colours. There are also rumours of a hitch in the Haga/Ducati deal, as it has not been made public four days after it was expected to be. More news on that situation will be posted soon.
Said YMI Team Boss Maio Meregalli of his new recruit, “Tom Sykes is an excellent signing for the team, he is the most interesting young rider in circulation in the racing world this year. I’ve had time to appreciate his riding qualities during the season and Brands Hatch was the confirmation of his talent for me. His brilliant result at Donington strengthened our conviction. We know that there will be much work next season because the new YZF-R1 arrives and it will have to learn the tracks. We have a lot of faith in being able to obtain good results quickly and the presence of a young person with a lot of ambition will give new motivation to the team.”