Our Paddock Pass Podcast colleague Neil Morrison is reporting on Crash.net that Tom Sykes has signed with the Shaun Muir Racing team for the 2019 World Superbike season, and that the team is set to switch machinery from Aprilia to BMW.
Markus Reiterberger will join Sykes on the factory-backed BMW team, as he has the correct passport to appease the German brand.
Of course, all of this came as a surprise to Eugene Laverty, who talked about his surprise at the news, which is set to be announced at next week’s EICMA show in Milan.
It had been clear since mid-season that Sykes was fixing to leave the Kawasaki Racing Team, and rumors soon emerged that the 2013 World Champion could find at home at Shaun Muir Racing, amongst other possibilities, which included Yamaha.
Who his teammate would be was up for debate however, and its said that BMW Motorrad insisted on the inclusion of Reiterberger if SMR was to switch to the German company’s hardware next season. This of course leaves Laverty the man standing in this game of rider-contract musical chairs.
Eugene Laverty has struggled on the Milwaukee Aprilia as of late, however, and now he has been linked to a ride at Honda, as Jake Gagne is expected to leave the WorldSBK for next season, likely with a return to MotoAmerica. Laverty’s fate is still far from certain, however.
For Sykes, the move comes with question marks. The 2019 BMW S1000RR is grabbing headlines right now, especially with its impressive technical specs leaking onto the internet this week.
But, the superbike is unproven, and BMW Motorrad’s World Superbike efforts have to-date been lackluster. The team at SMR certainly has its work cut out for it, and Sykes has a lot to prove, as he comes off the most dominant racing package in the WorldSBK paddock.
Will Sykes and the BMW be able to compete with Rea and the Kawasaki? Only time will tell.