As if our little ride up the west coast the other day aboard new Ninja 1000s en route to the World Superbike round at Laguna Seca wasn’t nice enough, we even got the excellent pleasure of a nice dinner Friday night with the man who seems set to become the new World Superbike Champion, Tom Sykes. If he wraps it up this weekend at Jerez (which seems likely, given a 37-point lead going into the final round), he will be the first man to win the title on a green bike since Scott Russell did the deed in 1993. The 28-year-old Sykes and his lovely wife, Amie, are expecting their first child in November and seemed incapable of being much happier, in spite of the championship being far from decided at Laguna and the fact that Sykes missed the 2012 title by half a point. Both Sykeses are from Huddersfield, in Yorkshire, England, where Tom says he was getting very fat working in a fish and chips shop prior to his WSB career taking off. We whipped out the iPhone for a few quick questions.
What do you think of Laguna Seca?
Are we recording?
First time for me riding here, and the circuit is very exciting. It’s something like the circuits I’m used to from the British Championship, really, where there’s many changes of elevation, they’re quite tight, a bit close to the barriers in some places—overall an exciting circuit, and yeah, still learning.
Did you do any off-road riding as a kid?
Basically I started racing on the circuits when I was 14, but prior to that I did do some motocrossing and trials, but just for fun.
So you’re about to have the first child in November?
Exactly. A new chapter in our lives, Amie and I, and yeah we’re looking forward to it.
Will that take seconds off, or add seconds to your lap times?
NAAAAARRRRR! That will make us even faster. I’ll need to work harder to bring home the bread and butter. Should be good for me with Amie as well, extra security and all…
Will you take up residence in Monaco after you win the Championship this year or stay in England?
I’ve got me sights set on the UK. I’m very happy where I am; I enjoy a good quality of life, I’ve got good links to the airports and roads. Some guys do the tax-free stuff, but for me you’ve kinda got to be making serious, serious money to make that worthwhile. What I’m doing, I’ve found a good balance.
How did you avoid doing the North West 200 and Isle of Man?
To me, it’s easy to stay out of it. What those guys do is a different story; hats off to them. I’ve been to watch the 200 once and it was incredible but definitely not for me. I enjoy doing the circuit stuff…and definitely won’t be going on the roads.
When did you decide to really pursue racing?
To be honest it was my Granddad who saw the talent. He was the guy who put the money on the table and got us racing for the first few years, and that got us to where we are now… After the first few races, we started to win some at club level, and after that the rest is history.
You’re making it right now. What was the first bike you raced?
Honda RS125 GP bike, yeah.
(Just the opening I needed to tell Sykes all about my big 13th on an RS125 20 years ago, at Laguna in the rain… He listened enraptured, trapped against a corner and his wife.)
Are you thinking about tomorrow all the time? You seem really relaxed.
I was thinking about tiramisu and taking a shower.
What part of the track will you go faster on tomorrow?
We’ve still got time. We’re going to make some little changes to the bike. Something to adjust the balance of the bike. Something very, very minimal.
Where’d you learn to make those fine adjustments?
To be honest, I give all the credit to my crew chief. Marcel [Duinker] and the crew know what they need to do. They’re always able to translate my comments into a bike that works better. (Get Kevin Cameron’s insights on Sykes’ team in the January 2014 Cycle World.)
Ahh, no, I’m on the old water tonight. I’m a teetotaler, don’t drink alcohol, never in my life. Nah, never in my whole life. Imagine. I’m bad enough sober.
How do you unwind?
To unwind I put my feet up, have a nice coffee. I like to go into town and just people watch, ya know? Just watch the world go by.
Sykes won the Saturday race at Laguna, and settled for a fourth on Sunday (Laguna being the first WSBK round in memory to not run both races on the Sunday), keeping up the happy demeanor in both victory and defeat, along with a highly practical attitude. He beat Guintoli in the second leg, who was closest in points, so that counts as a win, dunnit? BeIn Sport was broadcasting the other WSBK rounds but isn’t listing Jerez on its October 20 schedule. If you know a way to watch live, feel free to comment.