Tom Sykes and the Kawasaki Racing Team will part ways at the end of the 2018 Superbike World Championship after a nine-year relationship.
Sykes first joined Kawasaki in 2010 and went on to win 34 races with the Japanese marque as well as clinching their first world title for 20 years with his 2013 crown.
He also finished runner-up in 2012, 2014 and 2016 with his 2012 attempt being the closest ever runner up finish with just 0.5 points separating him with Aprilia’s Max Biaggi.
Sykes’ Kawasaki departure comes as no shock given how his relationship with team-mate Jonathan Rea has plummeted over the last two seasons. In a recent interview with Eurosport, the Yorkshireman laid the blame for the tension in the team at the door of Rea’s crew chief, Pere Riba.
“I feel the time has arrived; the moment to make a change in my career and seek new challenges,” Sykes said on the Kawasaki split.
“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”.
Kawasaki Europe's Racing Manager, Steve Guttridge added: "We've got a lot of history and thousands of happy miles with Tom over the years. His efforts both on the track, testing, developing plus within the press and at public occasions with the fans has made a really positive impact on Kawasaki.
"He is so popular because he always gives 100%. It is sad to lose such a great brand ambassador within KRT but I understand it's time for him to face his new goals and motivations. Whichever direction he moves onwards, we want to help him create his best possible future and that means of course starting again on pole in Portimao as the season resumes!"
Kawasaki are expected to announce Sykes’ replacement in the next few weeks, with the rumour-mill placing Bennetts British Superbike series leader Leon Haslam in pole position for the spot alongside Jonathan Rea.
SYKES KAWASAKI CAREER STATS
- Nine years with Kawasaki – 8 with KRT and 1 with PBM
- 2013 World Champion
- 222 out of 252 career race starts with Kawasaki
- 34 race wins
- 105 out of 106 career podiums
- 46 pole positions (record)
- 76 front row starts
- 38 fastest laps