Tom Sykes in talks to return to WorldSBK, Kawasaki for 2023?

Puccetti Racing team owner Manuel Puccetti says he has held talks with Tom Sykes over bringing him back to the Kawasaki fold for the 2023 WorldSBK season

Tom Sykes - Kawasaki Racing Team, 2013 WorldSBK

Tom Sykes could be in line for a return to the WorldSBK Championship in 2023 after holding discussions with Puccetti Racing over a deal that would also see him back on Kawasaki machinery.

One of the most successful WorldSBK riders of all time, Sykes swept to the 2013 WorldSBK Championship title with Kawasaki - its first in 20 years - during a long and successful nine season stint with the Japanese firm that yielded 34 wins and a record-holding 51 pole positions.

The Yorkshireman is currently competing in the British Superbike Championship after returning to the domestic series for his first campaign on UK soil since 2008 with multiple title-winners Paul Bird Motorsport on the MCE Ducati.

However, it has been a sobering campaign for ‘The Grinner’ amid speculation of constraints regarding upgrades on the Ducati Panigale V4 R, with a best finish of seventh place leaving him a lowly 15th in the standings with four rounds remaining.

As such, Sykes - who competed as a BMW factory rider from 2019 to 2021 - is seeking a route back to the international stage, albeit with an independent team.

That privateer outfit could be Puccetti Kawasaki, which is considering its options to replace Lucas Mahias who - like Xavi Fores before him - has struggled to perform at the race winning level of Toprak Razgatlioglu in 2019.

“We need a Superbike rider with whom we can get good results right away," team owner Manuel Puccetti told Speedweek. "My sponsors, Kawasaki and I need strong results, an experienced pilot is probably better suited for that than a young one."

"I'm talking to Sykes, but there's no agreement yet," Puccetti told "Nothing is fixed, I haven't even spoken to my current driver, Lucas Mahias. He's been driving for me for four years now, we'll probably end the cooperation after this season. 

“We have different names on the table for 2023, Tom is one of them. We are talking to Kawasaki Europe about the various options, but everyone is on vacation at the moment. I'll have more precise ideas by Barcelona at the end of September. 

“Our season ends just before December, we still have half of the championship ahead of us and a lot of time. I will also take this time to decide. What is certain is that we will use a Superbike and two riders in the Supersport World Championship.”

Tom Sykes vs Sylvain Guintoli for 2023 WorldSBK ride?

Sykes isn’t the only esteemed WorldSBK Champion believed to be in contention for the Puccetti Kawasaki seat with talk 2014 title winner Sylvain Guintoli is also in the frame.

The Frenchman is currently seeking new employment for 2023 following Suzuki’s decision to quit motorsport, which scuppers both his MotoGP development role and Endurance World Championship deal.

As such, Guintoli is reportedly considering a return to full-time racing for what would be his first complete WorldSBK campaign since 2015 [Ed: his 2016 season was hampered by a long period out through injury].

However, even with Guintoli’s lofty credentials at WorldSBK level and in EWC - where he contributed towards SERT Suzuki’s title win in 2021 - few riders in the world would potentially appear more attractive to a Kawasaki-equipped employer than Sykes.

Indeed, though Sykes’ efforts at Kawasaki have since been overshadowed by Jonathan Rea, who reeled off six consecutive WorldSBK titles when he arrived at KRT in 2015, he was arguably closer to the Ulsterman on the same bike than either of his successors Leon Haslam and Alex Lowes.

Sykes joined Kawasaki, when its factory efforts were run by Paul Bird Motorsport, in 2009 and proved integral to the development of a new generation ZX-10RR that would ultimately lead to him winning the 2013 WorldSBK title - a year after missing out on the 2012 crown by just half-a-point - and the Japanese firm’s ensuing dominance thereafter.