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Old rivalries flare as Tom Sykes, Jonathan Rea discuss WorldSBK clash

Former team-mates and current foes Tom Sykes and Jonathan Rea discuss the clash that led to the Kawasaki rider running off track at Phillip Island

Jonathan Rea - Kawasaki Racing Team

Tom Sykes has defended the lap one clash that led to former Kawasaki team-mate Jonathan Rea being punted to the back of the field on a disastrous day for the reigning champion.

From third on the grid, Rea got the jump on pole sitter Sykes into turn one before the BMW attempted to make a pass back at him on the run into Lukey Heights.

However, as the pair drew alongside one another contact was made to send Rea on the outside of the bend bouncing across the gravel trap, the Kawasaki rider saying he was lucky to call upon his ‘Motocross skills’ to stop him from falling.

Sykes stayed upright and continued to lead for 10 laps before being shuffled down the order as his tyres faded, eventually finishing ninth.

Apologising for the outcome, he says the incident was caused by him misjudging Rea’s slower than expected entry.

“We got off to a decent start then got caught out on the first lap by Jonathan into a couple of turns,” the former champion – who has a famously fractious relationship with his former team-mate - said. “One was Turn 3, that almost caught me out. And then obviously I didn’t learn from my mistake because on his entry into Lukey Heights, the slow entry he had, again caught me out.

“I wasn’t able to pull my bike down and there was contact. So, sorry for that. It’s never nice to make contact in this sport, especially the speeds we’re doing. It’s a shame he wasn’t able to stay on the track from a racing aspect.”

Dropping seven seconds to the front of the pack, Rea attempted to make headway back up the order but his race would come to a dramatic end on lap six when he lost the front of the Kawasaki into Hayshed and barrelled into retirement. The DNF is only his seventh since joining Kawasaki in 2015.

“I am just so frustrated because after what happened in the first lap, being put back there,” he said.

“I got a really good getaway. Then Tom came up the inside at Turn 4, I went back inside. Just going into Lukey Heights, I got hit from behind and that’s all I knew. I was very lucky to keep it upright in that gravel as it got quite deep – I used all my motocross skills!

“I guess I was dead last with a huge gap, I went into tyre conservation mode, but I was super-fast, I was catching the guys in front. When I caught the guys, I made some passes stick, but the pass on Rinaldi I went around the outside and got too far offline and onto the bumps and lost the front and rear together.

“I am pretty frustrated with myself as I thought we were making good headway until that point.”