Tom Sykes will leave the factory Kawasaki World Superbike team at the end of this season, it has been announced.
Sykes joined Kawasaki in 2010, and helped rebuild it to a frontrunning force in WSBK, winning the title with the Japanese marque in 2013 and narrowly missing out on a second the following season.
However, since Jonathan Rea’s arrival to KRT in 2015 – which has yielded three-successive titles – Sykes’ fortunes have turned, and has so far only tallied up one victory compared with standing leader Rea’s 10 in 2018, leaving him 152 points adrift in fourth in the standings.
Unhappy with how the ZX-10RR has developed, and with tensions between the KRT pair following a collision in Brno, Sykes feels “the time has arrived” to leave Kawasaki.
“I feel the time has arrived; the moment to make a change in my career and seek new challenges,” he 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.”
It is thought Sykes will make a return to Yamaha, with whom he made his full-time WSBK debut in 2009, next season, though likely with the GRT outfit, which will step up to the top class from World Supersport.
Leon Haslam, who made two wildcard appearances with Puccetti Kawasaki at Imola and Donington this season, has been tipped to take Sykes’ place for his first full WSBK campaign since 2015.
Yamaha riders Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark had both been linked to Sykes’s vacant ZX-10RR, but wins for the pair at Donington and Brno is thought to have prompted the Crescent-run team to retain its line-up.
Ducati’s Chaz Davies was also touted as a potential replacement for Sykes, and is currently negotiating terms to remain with the Italian marque as it gears up for its switch to the all-new V4 Panigale next year.