Sykes closing on 2023 WorldSBK return; Mackenzie loses out to Gardner at Yamaha?

Kawasaki smooths pathway for Puccetti Racing to sign 2013 WorldSBK champion Tom Sykes for 2023 but has Tarran Mackenzie lost Yamaha ride to Remy Gardner?

Tom Sykes, Tarran Mackenzie

Tom Sykes is getting ever closer to securing a deal to return to the WorldSBK Championship next season but fellow BSB rider Tarran Mackenzie might have seen his hopes of graduating scuppered by Yamaha’s signing of Remy Gardner.

Statistically one of the most successful WorldSBK racers of all time, it has been known for some time that 2013 World Champion Sykes has been in discussions with Puccetti Racing to embark on a return to the series following a season spent in the British Superbike Championship.

These talks are now understood to have reached an advanced stage with the pathway smoothed further by Puccetti being given Kawasaki’s blessing to welcome Sykes back into the fold.

“When we have a place within the Kawasaki family that fits, Tom is always welcome,” Kawasaki Racing Europe Manager Steve Guttridge told Speedweek. “It has given us a lot as a manufacturer over the years to be proud of.

"There are still some details to be worked out. We hope that we can take a step very soon."

After making his WorldSBK debut with Yamaha in 2009, Sykes began what would go on to become a hugely successful relationship with Kawasaki in 2010. After missing out on the 2012 WorldSBK title to Max Biaggi by just half-a-point, Sykes swept to the crown the following year and would go on to win 34 races during his nine-season tenure with the Japanese manufacturer.

After three moderately successful campaigns with BMW, Sykes returned to the BSB with Paul Bird Motorsport Ducati for 2022 but has struggled for form in the closely-contested domestic series. 

Nonetheless, Sykes’ experience and success with Kawasaki over the years is seen as a major asset to the firm’s leading satellite entry as Puccetti seeks to rediscover the form that took Toprak Razgatlioglu to the top of the podium in 2019.

Has Mackenzie lost Yamaha WorldSBK seat to Gardner?

While their form has been poles apart in BSB this year, there are now big question marks over whether Sykes will be joined by 2021 champion Mackenzie in making the step onto the world stage next year.

The Scot had been considered a strong favourite to land one of four satellite R1 rides for the 2023 WorldSBK seat, not least because he passed on a deal to join Go Eleven for 2022 in the hope of transitioning with Yamaha the following year.

However, while Mackenzie had been linked with a seat at GYTR GTR, confirmation that Yamaha has instead moved quickly to secure the signature of 2021 Moto2 World Champion and soon-to-be-exiled KTM MotoGP rider Gardner could spell bad news for the 16-time BSB race winner.

Indeed, Mackenzie was believed to be a consideration at GRT with Yamaha’s WorldSSP Champion Dominique Aegerter, but latest paddock gossip places the Swiss rider alongside Gardner subject to an agreement being reached on salary.

Moreover, while Yamaha’s satellite representation will be bolstered by the graduation of the GMT 94 outfit next year, the French squad is understood to be close to a deal with Lorenzo Baldassarri and Valentin Debise.

It means Mackenzie, who remains in the hunt to defend his BSB title despite injury woes at the start of the year, faces another season in BSB waiting on Yamaha or pin his hopes on one of Yamaha’s privateer efforts - Motoxracing or Gil Motorsport - taking him on.

Alternatively, Mackenzie could return to the idea of switching manufacturers, though as it stands only Pedercini Kawasaki and MIE Honda have positions available.