Features 24 Jan 2017

Catching Up: Josh Brookes

Exciting new projects on the horizon for Aussie international.

Josh Brookes made headlines more than once last week, firstly by confirming he will be on the factory Norton at the 2017 Isle of Man TT and then later revealing he’s bringing his British Superbike title-winning R1 back to wildcard at Phillip Island’s Superbike World Championship opener on 24-26 February. CycleOnline.com.au was fortunate enough to speak to the 33-year-old about his upcoming schedule.

Source: Supplied.

To begin with, there should be a lot of interest in the Norton project and good for you to return to the Isle of Man as well…

I think having a big following in the UK, people will really like the idea that I’m riding on a British brand. The bike’s made a lot of progress now and Davo last year almost did a 131mph lap on the Norton, so it’s very evident that the bike’s made big improvements in recent times and probably even more again since then. What’s good about it is that because I’ve had two years off [from the IoM], I’m still in the learning stages at that race and to see that the brand is still in a development phase, it works for both parties. That should allow us to ride without any pressure, at our own speed and see what we’re able to achieve.

What sort of preparation will you have on the bike?

I’ll go to the Isle of Man and refresh myself with the circuit, but the team are also planning to do some circuit testing as well. That will enable me to get on track and learn the bike in that environment, while trying to develop it a bit further for them.

This year you’re racing for Anvil Hire in BSB, but is this part of the strategy to compete in different events to help increase your living in the sport?

Nah, because I did the TT in 2013 and 2014, but then SMR said they didn’t want me to do it because they thought it was a distraction. I had motivation to ride the event, but I was actually being held back in previous years, so not being with SMR sort of opened up my opportunity to go back to the TT.

Now, I suppose committing to going back to the Isle of Man, the target would be to refine your experience there and get more and more competitive?

Yeah, that’s how it has to be played. The circuit is something that you can’t learn quickly. You have to do your apprenticeship and then become good at it over a longer period. The greats around there have often done multiple years before they’ve found the confidence to ride with perfect knowledge and be as competitive as they want to be.

Source: Supplied.

Moving onto the Phillip Island wildcard, it’s a unique opportunity to race on your title-winning R1 from BSB while returning to Australia for WorldSBK!

I’ve had a lot more involvement in this than I’ve ever had to in racing before. A lot of the organisation to do with personnel, the bike-spec, getting parts, fuel, purchasing the bike and freight, I’ve had to be very hands-on. I’m motivated and excited by the project. If I was asked the question ‘what’s the favourite bike you’ve ever raced?’, that bike from 2015 would be the favourite one to date. To go back to that bike, I’m looking forward to it, and I’m left with the same question that I think most people have… Last year, of course, was not a great example because it was clearly not a good display of riding, bike or team, so you’re left with the question of ‘what if you went from BSB champion to WorldSBK on the same bike, where would you finish?’. I’m as interested to find that out as everybody else is and I think it’s a genuinely good question. This is my opportunity to see – it could be great or it could be disappointing, but I’m intrigued to find out.

Do you feel like, as long as the transition back to the Yamaha is pretty smooth, that you will be more competitive than what we saw last year?

I can only use my own experience to gauge it, but I was top 10 last year in an environment that I wasn’t pleased about. The confidence I have on that R1 should be able to steer me up the grid further than the top 10 that I was able to get on the BMW, so hopefully having the track experience could also inspire better results. With the crowd behind me, being at home, it’s kind of like that one last try, just to finish the story. There’s a lot of motivation there.

As a young guy a lot of years ago, you put yourself on the map by winning the 2004 WorldSSP race at Phillip Island. Does this bring back those memories?

If I’d said to anyone that I thought I was going to win that race before it actually started, people would have put me in the nut house – they would have thought I was crazy! I mean, anything can happen and sometimes dreams come true, but I’ve ridden for so many different teams in different championships around the world and I’ve experienced that sometimes you don’t need all the fancy stuff. Sometimes you just need that basic support crew of people as motivated as you are and you can do some great things. What this is, is a bunch of Aussie blokes going to an Australian race-track to race their motorbike. It’s not any more built up and there’s no-one making money out of it. In fact, everyone involved, it’s costing them money, and we have got some really loyal sponsors on-board to alleviate some of the load. Everyone’s pitching in and it’s just a very low-key, grassroots group that’s trying to take on the world. It really shows who’s passionate about bikes and racing – I think that’s the key.