What next for WorldSBK Champion Tom Sykes after Scott Redding BMW deal?

Does Scott Redding's appointment at BMW for the 2021 WorldSBK Championship spell bad news for the rider he is replacing, Tom Sykes?

Tom Sykes - BMW Motorrad WorldSBK

While there has been significant fanfare around BMW’s signing of Scott Redding for the 2022 WorldSBK Championship over the last 24 hours, there remains a question mark over what happens now to Tom Sykes.

A WorldSBK Champion in 2013 with Kawasaki, Sykes is in his third season with the German manufacturer and was understood to be working on a deal to remain in 2022.

However, it seems BMW has moved quickly upon the knowledge Redding - an eight-time WorldSBK race winner - was becoming a free agent, leaving Sykes to be frozen out of the factory Shaun Muir Racing-run BMW Motorrad WorldSBK factory effort.

Indeed, Redding’s emergence as an option came at an awkward time for Sykes in his contract negotiations with paddock chatter suggesting he would have had an automatic renewal had he been in the right position in the overall standings at a certain point in the year - though it is unclear if this was met or even if the point in the year had been reached.

The situation - and solution - thus draws parallels with 2020 when Eugene Laverty was levered out of the BMW factory squad in favour of Michael van der Mark, who jumped ship from Yamaha.

Indeed, BMW does reference Sykes in its announcement of Redding, saying the two parties are still negotiating for 2022.

Translated, Sykes will likely be offered a ride on one of the satellite efforts that emerged over the winter as BMW sought to boost its presence in tandem with launching the M 1000 RR. However, one of these - RC Squadra Corse - has slipped off the grid for now claiming it needs to re-organise its management, though given this was well over a month ago now one wonders if it’ll re-appear at all.

Instead, the other team - Bonovo MGM Racing - could potentially double up with BMW’s help for 2022 with an M 1000 RR for both Sykes and Jonas Folger.

However, while BMW is at pains to say the satellite teams are de facto factory efforts with works support, it is known both teams have suffered from a lack of parts and testing to bring them up to a standard anywhere close to where they were expected. 

That said, Sykes is well liked at BMW and he has done the legwork of the development on both the S 1000 RR and M 1000 RR, two bikes that ended up with different compromises. Whereas the S 1000 RR handled sweetly but was monstered in a straight line, the M 1000 RR can keep up but chews its tyres exiting corners, thus losing it performance.

Sykes has also done well to match up to van der Mark, who only recently was considered a potential MotoGP candidate and the rider most likely to dethrone Jonathan Rea at the top of the WorldSBK tree. Ahead of Navarra, Sykes sits seventh overall with van der Mark in ninth.

This is not to say BMW is Sykes’ only option. The Briton will still be in demand, if for nothing else than his scintillating single lap pace that has seen him notch up an incredible 50 pole positions since his debut back in 2008.

His factory option will be limited to Honda but the Japanese firm might be keen to consider utilising his knowledge of the Kawasaki and BMW as it fights to speed up development of the CBR1000RR-R. His biggest rival for at least one of those seats will probably be Chaz Davies.

Sykes could also embark on a return to Kawasaki with a well sorted privateer team like Puccetti, or maybe Yamaha will consider him for GRT.