Josh Brookes to race IOM TT on Norton alongside David Johnson
After a two-year absence from ‘real’ road racing, Josh Brookes will return to the TT in 2017 astride the Aprilia RSV4 powered works Norton prototype.
After Cameron Donald stepped away from the Norton squad last year, countryman David Johnson stepped into the role for the Donington Hall based squad.
Johnson recorded a 130.872mph lap on the Norton at the 2016 TT but a serious crash at the Ulster GP while racing for Wilson Craig Honda sidelined the South Australian for the remainder of last season.
Dave Johnson will stay with Norton and ride alongside Brookes for in Norton’s 2017 TT campaign.
Founded in 1898, and reborn in 2008 under the stewardship of Stuart Garner, the heritage of the brand is something that attracted Brookes to the Norton stable.
Brookes has competed twice before at the TT. His first appearance with Tyco Suzuki netted Brookes the title of fastest-ever newcomer around the 37.73 mile course after putting in a 127.726 lap aboard the GSX-R1000. (Peter Hickman broke that newcomer record in 2014).
Brookes went on to record a top ten finish at the 2013 TT and backed that up again in 2014 with a 129.859mph lap on his way to seventh in the Senior TT.
After signing with the SMR Yamaha squad for season 2015, Brookes stepped away from the TT as Yamaha predominantly wanted their focus on the BSB campaign. Ultimately they would be rewarded with Brookes taking the then new YZF-R1 to BSB Championship glory. The Shaun Muir Racing Team, with Brookes, then mad what turned out to be an ill-fated move to WorldSBK for 2016, and switched from Yamaha to BMW machinery. The marriage was a troubled one and the SMR squad will switch to Aprilia in 2017, but without Brookes. The Australian will campaign an Anvil Hire Tag Yamaha YZF-R1 in the 2017 British Superbike Championship.
“I had been talking to a few people about getting back on the roads. As I have signed to ride with a privateeer team in BSB I have the freedom to ride a different brand at other events, as there is no major conflict of interest. I talked to a few teams and had a conversation with Stuart Garner at Norton, and the idea of riding such for an iconic brand certainly appealed to me.
“Especially that a lot of my following in BSB comes from British fans. They will love me being on the Norton, and I love learning the history of the brand and the history of the TT. Being a part of the Norton story will be a pretty special experience.
“My first two years at the TT, while very successful, were learning years, but I took to it very quickly. I have had two years away from it now, so will still be in that learning stage, not a winning stage. Likewise, the Norton is still in the development stages, so a good combaintion I think, without the pressure to win the race, but to get the result you deserve.”
You touched on the British fans, when you first arrived in England they loved to hate you. But these days they seem to have come around to you, and you have quite a following on British soil.
“The fans have come around for sure, after six or seven years, or what ever it was in the series, people have overlooked their first impressions. Where they were somewhat misled by sitautions out of my control, but I am not here to go over the history, but yeah the fans have taken a shine to me since then.
“A lot of people like to have an arch rival, a battle to support. Shakey needs someone to take it up to him full tilt. Throughout history there has to be that other guy, Bayliss v Edwards, Chili v Fogarty, or Rossi v Gibernau or Biaggi. There always has to be that arch rival style battele to energise the crowd. I think I will bring a bit of extra spark back to the series.”
When will you test the Norton?
“In March. We do also have some plans to do a few parade laps at BSB events, but that will just be display laps, but we will also have some proper tests at racetracks.”
And when will you get on the Anvil Yamaha to ready yourself for BSB competition?
“We have a test in Spain early in March.”
Do you know many of the guys in that team?
“Not particualrly, there is one guy that worked in the team at SMR, big Al, he is going to be my crew chief, that is the first point of call that is familar, and hte most important. But I know everything had on the bike when I won in 2015, is there is any area where we don’t feel strong or something is a problem, it won’t be unfamilar territory, I will be able to identify hoipefully with some sease and give the correct feedback so the guys can improve it quickly.”
Fellow Australian Davo Johnson makes his return on a Norton which he took to become the fastest ever British motorcycle around the TT in 2016, claiming a seventh place in the Superbike TT and a best lap of 130.87mph.
“As a team we did such a great job last year, we all worked awesomely as a team and I really felt at home with Norton. Without that sort of relationship with your team it’s almost impossible to get good results. I knew the 2017 bike was going to be better again after what we learnt in 2016, so I wanted to stay and make the next step with Norton. This year I know if everything goes smoothly with no problems we can battle for the podium, I’m ready to be up there and I feel the bike will be too. But like I said, everything must be perfect as everyone is really flying these days. We had a small bike problem in the Senior TT last year which caused my concentration malfunction (laughs…)! But before that we were up dicing for a top 5 position and my ideal lap was 131.5mph, so I’m confident for good things this year.”
So what will make Davo feel like he and the team have done a good job and crack a well-earned beer open at the end of the Senior?
“The end of the Senior is a strange time for every rider I think it changes with every year too as the results play a huge part. If you had a shit race like I did last year in the senior, well I was pissed off a bit… But after the Superbike race last year where we had our best results, well that was an amazing feeling! It was a tough race and everyone in the paddock was so pumped for us as a team. We definitely shut a load of the haters up and yes, I wanted a beer after that!”
Norton CEO Stuart Garner
“There are a couple of reasons why we wanted to sign Josh Brookes. Firstly, he gives us the opportunity of a world class short circuit rider to move along the V4 road bike development, and secondly, with his TT rider experience and his achievement of being fastest newcomer in 2013, Josh is clearly capable of a 130mph-plus lap. Given the requirements of the team at this stage of the project this makes him a perfect rider for Norton.
“For David Johnson to come in last year and move the development on and do all but a 131mph lap was a huge achievement and ground-breaking for the team. There’s a huge amount of respect from everyone in the Norton team for everything he has achieved and Davo has more than earned his place back on the bike in 2017.”
The SG6 will feature the V4 Aprilia CRT motor with Norton’s own V4 engine being raced in 2018. Heavily based on the TT racer geometry wise, the V4 SS road bike is almost identical to the SG6 TT bike in terms of frame stiffness, weight distribution and chassis.
“With first deliveries of V4 SS bikes not expected until the second half of 2017 it’s too early in the engine’s development to race the new Norton V4 engine given the dangers and endurance involved in competitive racing at the TT. We’ve further strengthened the team with the addition of former Norton Factory rider Ian Mackman joining the team as a race engineer. ‘Mackers’ rode for us in 2013 on the Norton SG1. They always say the Island gives you lessons so you have to curb expectations in the knowledge that the TT can deliver some very hard lessons and cruel luck. So, for 2017 we would of course like to build on our success of last year, but we don’t set ourselves any kind of hard targets other than making sure the bike and the team continue to move forwards! Then we’re happy!”
Ian will join experienced Norton Race Manager Johnny Cusack in the team along with TT legend Mick Grant who will continue in his role as Senior Advisor adding his extensive TT experience to the factory squad.