Rizla Suzuki's Tom Sykes won his debut and second British Superbike races in quick succession to claim an emotional double win at the seventh round of the Bennetts British Superbike Championship at Oulton Park in Cheshire yesterday.
Starting from third on the grid in the opening race, Yorkshire ace Sykes led from lap seven and never looked back, winning by a dominant five seconds despite admitting to nerves as the laps ticked down and heavy clouds menaced the 2.69-mile circuit. In race two he took the lead on lap two and then maintained a slim advantage under enormous pressure to the chequered flag, riding with impressive composure and speed. He capped the day by setting the fastest lap in both races and moves from sixth to third in the title race.
Rizla Suzuki's Atsushi Watanabe matched his qualifying position finishing 13th in race one. In the second, he was forced to come into the pits and take his spare bike due to an electrical problem and fought his way through from 29th to 17th just outside the points. He now returns to Japan to take part in the prestigious Suzuka eight-hour race where he is targeting a podium finish next weekend.
Rizla Suzuki and Sykes step up to the challenge of World Superbike racing in two weeks time when he takes a wild-card ride in the massively-popular Brands Hatch round of the Championship. Rizla Suzuki then goes on to the eighth round of the British Superbike Championship at Knockhill in Scotland one week later.
"It doesn't get much better than this; to win my first race and then my second on the same day is a dream come true. A big thank you to my Rizla Suzuki team, every member deserves this success as it has been a big effort to get my GSX-R1000 performing so well - thank you one and all.
"Race one was completely nerve-wracking. It seemed to be the longest race ever; the laps took forever and I had far too much time to think of what could go wrong so I was relieved and overjoyed to get to the chequered flag and get the win in the bag. Race two was harder with all the pressure but I knew my Rizla Suzuki was good and controlled it from the front; it was the icing on the cake.
"Brands Hatch WSB is next and my debut at that level of racing. My Rizla Suzuki is as good as any Superbike in the world and I can't wait to rub shoulders with Bayliss, Haga and Kagayama: They need to look out as I'm going for the podium."
"Well done to Tom and Rizla Suzuki for great results; this is very good news and makes me happy as well as big encouragement for future.
"It has been a difficult day for me; the results are not what I want. In race one I rode as hard as I could and in race two I started from pit-lane on my spare bike because of electrical problem and although I overtook many people and rode faster than the first race, I did not make the points. I now go back to Japan and Suzuka and hope for a podium result in the eight-hour for Suzuki."
Jack Valentine - Rizla Suzuki Team Manager:
"Brilliant, ace, mega, fantastic, awesome - any of those will describe Tom's double win, take your pick. Well done to the Rizla Suzuki team and Tom on a fairy-tale performance, it is thoroughly deserved and well earned. I think now we have established Tom and the Rizla Suzuki GSX-R1000 as race winners, there will be more to come.
"Atsu did his best today but didn't get the results he deserves. After he returns from Japan and the Suzuka eight-hour, I am sure he will be up for the rest of the season. Tom's victories today have lifted him as well.
"Thank you to all the Rizla Suzuki sponsors and fans for all their support - this double race win is for you all to share with us. With a bit of luck there will be more champagne this season and wouldn't it be great to taste it at Brands World Superbikes - come along and give us your support if you can, every bit helps!"
Race one results:
1: Tom Sykes (Rizla Suzuki) 29:12.1652: James Ellison (Honda) +4.7793: Shane Byrne (Ducati) +5.0894: Leon Haslam (Honda) +14.3365: Simon Andrews (Yamaha) +25.5186: Cal Crutchlow (Honda) +31.4027: Michael Rutter (Ducati) +36.3838: Billy McConnell (Kawasaki) +38.6309: Michael Laverty (Suzuki) +48.03910: John Laverty (Ducati) +48.59613: Atsushi Watanabe (Rizla Suzuki) +56.451
Race two results:
1: Tom Sykes (Rizla Suzuki) 29:04.5542: Cal Crutchlow (Honda) +0.0973: Shane Byrne (Ducati) +0.6194: Leon Haslam (Honda) +1.2655: James Ellison (Honda) +11.6496: Simon Andrews (Yamaha) +25.2557: Michael Laverty (Ducati) +26.4988: Scott Smart (Kawasaki) +26.9499: Karl Harris (Yamaha) +31.18910: Billy McConnell (Kawasaki) +31.22117: Atsushi Watanabe (Rizla Suzuki) +32.694
Championship Standings (after seven of 12 rounds):
1: Shane Byrne (Ducati) 3122: Cal Crutchlow (Honda) 2133: Tom Sykes (Rizla Suzuki) 1764: Leon Haslam (Honda) 1745: Leon Camier (Ducati) 1606: James Ellison (Honda) 1507: Michael Rutter (Ducati) 1418: Michael Laverty (Suzuki) 1009: Simon Andrews (Yamaha) 9010: Tristan Palmer (Honda) 6415: Atsushi Watanabe (Rizla Suzuki) 33