It was a victory long time in coming for the Kawasaki Racing Team – 20 years to be exact! But it was well worth the wait. It was on Sunday that Tom Sykes was crowned the 2013 Superbike World Champion at Jerez.
And then it came, that day. Finally. After all that waiting. After all that anticipation.
I will admit it. I was on edge. Every race till Sunday, I was on edge.
I counted points and kept score. I suck at Math, so it was inevitable that my calculations would go all wrong. I would call up Math-genius friends in desperation. How many points, I would ask. How many more points does he have to make?
I was torn between writing, waxing eloquent on the races and jinxing my favourite team for eternity.
I was torn too between my favourite rider and my favouritist rider (Yes, I have two).
And so it was that on Sunday afternoon, I settled down to watch the final round of the World Superbike Championship.
Oh Jerez. What I wouldn’t have done to be in Jerez at that very moment. Instead, I sipped my tea in New Delhi, India, fingers tightly crossed and occasionally cussing at the sports channels for showing only cricket.
There was none of that 2012 hoopla – the fireworks and the edge of seat excitement.
There was none of that despair either.
Instead, the last two races of the season were calm and collected – like the man himself.
The weekend began with news that Tom Sykes hadn’t grabbed the Superpole. Uh-oh I said, but kept my opinion to myself. Instead, it was Eugene Laverty who took a masterful Superpole, as the Irishman clocked in 1’40.620, edging Sykes out by 0.048s.
How’s that for mounting tension eh?
The lights went off as the riders roared down the beautiful Jerez circuit. Sykes had been consigned to 3rd. Laverty was in the lead and surprise, surprise Marco Melandri took over the 2nd spot. Sylvain Guintoli took his place at 4th.
It was a quiet race from then on. Sykes kept a tight grip on his 3rd, focused and steady. The aim was to hold off Guintoli. Fingers crossed we waited. The race seemed unbelievably long, and the chequered flag too far away.
Meanwhile, up ahead, Melandri was playing the waiting game, reducing the distance. The final lap loomed ahead. Then, he made his move – a naughty one, swiping past Laverty, bumping the Irishman out of the way.
Laverty isn’t one to take things lying down. No siree. He waited, and then, just when Melandri was least expecting it, right there on the final turn, made his move on the outside. It was smooth, calculated and totally unexpected, leaving us chuckling in delight. It was a manoeuvre to remember.
But everyone was a little distracted. Laverty won the race and got his team the manufacturers’ trophy.
And Tom Sykes was crowned the 2013 eni FIM Superbike World Champion! It was a race well-run and a win well-deserved! Sykes broke a long drought for Kawasaki, bringing them a title that was last won in 1993, by Scott Russell.
I screamed, cheered and clapped. Finally! Finally, I shouted. It was a well-earned win for the 28-year-old from Huddersfield, England, for a man who made it big the old-fashioned way – through sheer hard work.
It was inevitable then, that we would see a different Sykes during the second race. Sure enough, championship in hand, Sykes was going for the win. The last race was spectacular in some respects. Melandri decided to stay in because of a foot injury he said he got while climbing the stairs at home. Highly suspicious you would think!
But Laverty was determined to take home two podium wins. He passed Sykes on the 13th lap and went on to take the win. This was his second double-win of the season and 9th race victory!
Meanwhile Sykes also completed a brlliant record of 8 Tissot-Superpoles! Brilliant isn’t it. He later said in a press release, “Words cannot describe how I feel. I am very level headed but since Magny-Cours there are moments where my mind started dreaming. When I was dreaming I had goose bumps and it was magical to even dream I could be world champion. But that was maybe 2% of what I am feeling now after winning the title. It was good for the championship that it got decided at the final round again, especially here with these great fans. My team is mostly Spanish so it is a home round for them. The championship win has not fully sunk in yet but it will do soon, I’m sure.”
Kawasaki had it good though! The Kawasaki Mahi Racing Team India may have lost the rider’s championship, but took home the Manufacturers’ Championship victory for the Japanese team. The Indian team also took the annual team award for the most points scored by a two-man entry!
And there it is. The end of a phenomenal eni FIM Superbike World Championship season.
This was also the year when I had the privilege of witnessing SBK at Monza. It was here too that I met and interviewed Tom Sykes and Eugene Laverty! Brilliant isn’t it?
2014 can’t come soon enough.