Josh Brookes to race WorldSBK event at Phillip Island on BSB Championship winning Yamaha
We talk to Brookesy about the WorldSBK wildcard and his split with SMR
Brookes will reunite with his BSB Yamaha after it was purchased by former road racer Deon Coote, who now runs a Melbourne-based road construction company called Elite Roads, who will be the major backer of Brookes’ Phillip Island campaign.
Josh Brookes will be the sole Australian wildcard at the Phillip Island Yamaha Finance round of the 2017 Superbike World Championship from February 24-26 – riding the same Yamaha YZF-R1M he won the 2015 British superbike title on.
When did Deon get hold of the bike?
“Earlier this month Deon purchased the machine from Tommy Hill, who raced the machine in his team last year with John Hopkins and Broc Parkes. But, as we know, the Yamaha doesn’t suit everybody, so the results were not as great as they had hoped. I organised the deal to purchase the bike direct from Hill, who has closed his race team.
“It has been having a little bit of race preparation on it for me in Britain, as it is just easier to get parts and a few things done there.
“There will be a few more changes needed when the bike gets here, I use a thumb brake and different bars and rearsets etc. so I want to get it exactly in the same set-up as I last raced it.
“I hope to have it here by the 28th, in time for the 30th test at Phillip Island with the ASBK guys. But we could be held up by the government import approval process, so it might not get here in time, fingers crossed.”
When did the deal start coming together?
“Been in the works since the middle of December, but there was some haggling over price etc. and the deal was not done until after Christmas.”
I guess the lack of being able to gel and achieve top results on the BMW in WorldSBK has been somewhat done to death. But was it predominantly the power delivery holding you back?
“People don’t know what your lack of form is from. Some will think is it his personal life? Or something else.. and all of a sudden you become an iffy signing. You are only as good as your last race.
“As to the BMW I raced in WorldSBK, it is a very complex situation, difficult to explain. I will say something though, and I don’t know if I am completely correct but I suspect and feel that the motorcycle has not been developed around riders, but around a computer program and whatever algorithms they set. That is a broad statement, but it is something I think holds it back.
“The BMW is strongest in Superstock categories, similar to what the Superbike categories run in Australia. But as soon as you get in to the more open rules like World Superbike, it loses a lot of its strengths. At the end of the day my team were not able to explore further developments, that in turn failed to inspire any sort of confidence from my seat on the bike.”
How did you find the SA Kawasaki ZX-10R that you rode at Eastern Creek late last year?
“It was good, that was a positive for the year to get out on a different bike. It had been 11 years since I raced here, and I had never ridden that model of bike, and it was back to grass roots racing. The guys on the track fought and raced hard, the bikes were evenly matched across the brands, Yamaha, Kawasaki, and a Ducati in the mix too, it all seemed fairly well matched. For me it was a good positive thing to end the year with some racing, and to bang bars for the lead and win some races.”
I know you got offered a couple of tests after the end of the season last year. A Yamaha Superbike test, and also an offer to race the final few rounds in Moto2. But you were contracted to SMR, and they prevented you from riding. Was the separation on amicable terms?
“It was, from my understanding, there is no massive fallout. I understand how racing works, there is a business angle that has to be followed. The shoe has been on the foot at other times. I did find it disappointing towards the end with how stale the environment in the pit box was, because of a couple of people.
“And as for the timing of the notice that I would no longer be required, that did leave a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. I know, through a few different people around the team, that the deal with Aprilia was done early in the season last year. So I was disappointed that what I thought had been a somewhat personal relationship between Shaun Muir and myself, built through riding for him and the successes we had in BSB, only for then to be no personal angle to the dismissal. Just the day before the press release went out, which of course they had known about for months, for me to only be told a few hours before the announcement to the world, that was a bitter pill to swallow.
“No early warnings for me to start putting out feelers for a ride elsewhere, just left it until the last minute to tell me in what as a very impersonal way via short message. I know this is just a job, I have left teams before, it is part and parcel of racing life, but just the lack of any personal touch to the severance, considering what we had been through and had achieved together…”
What are the realistic expectations for the wildcard. You know Pirellis, you have won on them, you know the circuit, you have won there…
“Well I scored a top ten on the BMW last year, on a bike that I had very little confidence in, and certainly no love for. On that alone I would expect a strong top ten. At my home track on a bike that inspires me, and a project that I have put so much personal effort in to, I am hoping to squeeze a bit more out of it, towards a top five would hopefully be achievable.
“That is just a shot at it, I don’t know, it’s so hard to predict. Like so many times before, you have to wait until you are there. Look back to 2004, when I won the World Supersport wildcard, nobody thought I would do it , but sometimes dreams come true.
“But yes, I guess aim for top five and wait and see what good fortune we have. We are not an official WorldSBK team, just a bunch of us guys putting a plan together here, led by Deon Coote and myself, so essentially a home grown effort, small budget, a few guys coming into lend a hand for free. Nobody is making money, we are all spending money, I am spending money, Deon is spending a heap of money, a few sponsors helping along the way but at the end of the day it is a bunch of guys that love motorbikes wanting to go racing, and doing what they love. So we want to just go out and enjoy, perhaps offer something the local crowd can get behind. We can’t all be the Troy Bayliss or Casey Stoner of this lifetime, we are who we are and let’s just go out for what we can get.”
Brookes will be one of four riders on Yamahas at the Phillip Island WorldSBK round, in a crack field of 22 that also includes dual world champion Rea, Tom Sykes (Kawasaki), Chaz Davies (Ducati), Nicky Hayden (Honda), Alex Lowes (Yamaha), Leon Camier (MV Agusta) and returning riders Eugene Laverty (Aprilia) and Marco Melandri (Ducati). German Stefan Bradl (Honda) will also make the switch to the production-based series from MotoGP.
To purchase for the Yamaha Finance round of the 2017 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship visit www.worldsbk.com.au or call the Superbike hotline on 1300 728 007 for tickets and general event information.