Features 21 Sep 2023

Five Questions: Brayden Elliott

DAO Racing rider on making the step to a Superbike in BSB.

Perseverance paid off for the hard-working Brayden Elliott, and after years spent in the National Superstock category of the British Superbike Championship (BSB), he was given an opportunity to step to the premier Superbike class for the final three rounds of the 2023 season with DAO Racing. With his first weekend in the category complete at Outlon Park, CycleOnline tracked down the determined Australian for this latest Five Questions feature.

Image: Supplied.

What was the process of the BSB Superbike opportunity coming together and can you explain the emotions when you found out you’d get the chance to step to the premier class?

I think that when I got the phone call, there were so many mixed emotions, to be honest. It felt like partly relief that I had finally got the opportunity, because it has just been so long in the making and so long trying to get to this point. Obviously, filled with excitement and then I think afterwards when I had time to sit down and let in soak in is when the nerves started to come in about the whole thing, realising it was only going to be like a week or so after getting the phone call that I was going to be rolling out at a BSB meeting on a Superbike. So yeah, there were so many mixed emotions.

Basically, how it came about, was… As you know, I was already in with the DAO Racing team, but obviously on the stock 1000 side of the garage. They had parted ways with Dean Harrison, everything there was all as fine as it could be. Dean had been with the team for I think eight years, so everyone is still on great terms. He had already announced that he wasn’t going to be with the team next year, he was going to pursue something different in his career, and then just basically it just worked out that because he wasn’t going to be with the team moving forward, they might as well get the ball rolling now and give me an opportunity on the bike. So yeah, probably Dean’s… I don’t want to say misfortune that he didn’t get to finish the year, because he moved onto other things anyway, but that left the door open for me really to jump on and be given the opportunity.

Was the step from the National Superstock to the Superbike category how you imagined it to be?

I definitely anticipated the jump to be hard, you only have to look at some of the other guys that have made the move to realise that it’s not a quick thing, I can’t really think of anyone in recent years that has jumped on one and gone quick straight away. Even if you look back the last few years at the stock 1000 champions that have been fairly dominant and had unbelievable seasons, and they’ve jumped on the Superbike and if anything they have gone slower than what they have on their stock 1000. So I have kind of witnessed that for the last few years and seen how sometimes it can kind of either make or break riders in a way. So I anticipated it to be hard, maybe not as much as what it was. The few things I had confidence in going into Superbike, was one: the team made a decision all year that I was to run a Motec electronics. Even though in stock 1000 we can have all of the rider aids, the ecus and that kind of cool stuff, we made the call that I wasn’t to do that, so I was already running on Superbike electronics anyway. Probably a disadvantage in the stock class, because obviously you are up against bikes with all of the rider aids, but an advantage when I moved to Superbike because I had already had a year or eight rounds or so of learning to ride a 1000cc bike with no traction control, anti-wheelie or any other support. That was something that helped, and obviously, I had been on a ZX-10 all year anyway so I kind of thought maybe those two things would make the jump not so big for me.

When I first rolled out on it, if someone had blindfolded me and said go and ride this bike, I wouldn’t have necessarily come back in and even been able to say I was on a ZX-10 – it felt so different to my stock bike it was unbelievable. The main differences, the first one that jumps out is just the power and the way it makes its power. It’s a bit like two-stroke power, it comes in so strong and so aggressive, and yeah, even though I have been used to riding sort of 200hp bikes for a few years now, just the jump in 25-30 hp that a Superbike has over a stock bike, and the way it makes its power is a bit of an eye-opener. So when you first roll out of pitlane, it’s kind of like ‘wow, this is an absolute animal’. Moving on from there, the other things I found quite challenging… Once you get used to the speed difference, that’s something you can get used to the concept quite quickly. The one big thing is the stiffness, obviously, we run… Everything is modified but the frame is braced, so even that is standard but it is modified standard. We run the world superbike KRT swingarm, so that is quite stiff and yeah it is very unforgiving. On the stock bike sometimes I come out of a turn or over a crest and the bike might move around underneath you but you can pretty much keep it pinned and pull out of it and it will calm itself down, where on the Superbike, any sort of wheel spin or undulation, or any slight moment seemed to then result in a huge moment. The way it would react sort of extremely violent to any moment was a bit of an eye-opener, that was quite difficult to get a grasp on. I think the final big thing that I found a hell of a jump was the brakes. I have never used anything like that before, and the way that you need to use the brakes as well, I had to completely change my style, which didn’t come very natural at all. If I broke in a way that I wanted to when I was going into the turns, I would just end up with the rear wheel a foot off the floor, or I was going in so sideways. I really had to change my braking technique to try and keep the rear wheel on the floor, otherwise, I just couldn’t stop. So just the power, and how touchy the brakes are was crazy. To answer about the differences as well in the build of the bike, basically, the BSB-spec Superbike we run would be as identical to Johnny Rea’s Superbike that you could possibly get. The only differences between our bikes are there bikes, one: we run Ohlins where obviously they use Showa, and the electronics. But everything else with the bike is basically identical to what you would see on a WorldSBK, just the electronics really is the difference.

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In terms of making realistic and achievable goals to progress forward, how does what you achieved on the weekend at Oulton Park fit into that? 

The weekend fitted in pretty well to what we had hoped for the weekend. One of my very first questions when I got the phone call to say I was on the bike, one of the first things I asked was what is the expectation, because like I said,  I’ve seen so many good riders be sort of chewed up and spat out in Superbikes, and before you know it it’s their sixth round in the championship and you never see them again. It’s been also a career ender for riders. That was something that we addressed very quickly, and thankfully, the expectation really from the team was there is no bulk pressure, I think at the minute the most pressure I’m under is from myself rather than anyone else. The only things they wanted me to do was one, enjoy, it’s not every day you get to ride a Superbike so enjoy the experience, two, learn and progress, they said as long as I’m getting on it and moving forward constantly, that’s what they want and offer as much feedback as I can, and try to finish races. Obviously, they are an expensive piece of kit and all of the rest of it, and it wouldn’t be ideal if I am destroying a bike every time I ride it, as much as obviously I can’t go out there and worry about crashing the thing. But yeah, just try and finish race distances and get that under my belt, and learn and improve.

As I whole, I think I started the weekend lap time wise, I think I did a 1m39s in FP1 for my first roll-out, and by the time we left I was nearly doing 35s. The improvement was there and every session we moved forward, some sessions we made a big chunk forward, but at the end of the weekend the times were getting like… I wouldn’t say competitive because we were outside the points, but they weren’t a million miles off. The leaders were doing ’34s and eighth to 15th were doing ’35s and I wasn’t far off that, so that was cool. So yeah it ticked every box really for a first weekend, the only slight thing that was a little bit annoying was that I crashed out of the last race, but thankfully it was only a small tip-off so the bike was completely fine and as far as the team morale and vibe was after the crash, yeah they were completely fine and if anything it was more kind of pats on the backs and congratulations more than anything. Up until the point of the crash, I had knocked another half a second off my time and was doing it every lap of the race, so we took another big step. It led to a mistake and a crash, but the progress was there to warrant a mistake, so yeah, no one was bothered at all about finishing the weekend with a crash.

With the opportunity to step up to the Superbike category for the remaining rounds of the 2023 season, does that lead to a full-time opportunity in the premier class for 2024? 

Nothing is set in stone just yet, obviously, the whole purpose of coming over here was to be on a Superbike and that is what I have been chasing. The team were aware of that when I signed for them 12 months ago, that my goal was to be on a Superbike, and they are aware now that is what I want moving forward. We are all on the same page on the class that I want to be in, and they know where that is. I think given the fact that they allowed me to finish the year, potentially a bit of a trial, a bit of a pre-season test for next year I would say, but as far as all of that goes, I think that will be a conversation that is had more in the off-season to know if it is going to be confirmed or not. I’d like to think that yeah, hopefully, myself and the team are on the same kind of wavelength that this should be a bit of a pre-start for things to come. Either way, I’m over the moon with the team and I’d love to stay there for next year, and I think the chance of that is very high. Whether or not that will be in Superbike here I’m pushing for, but ultimately it will be down to them. Hopefully, again, if I can meet expectations and our little targets that we set for the three rounds that I am on the Superbike, I think the chances of that progressing into something more would be pretty high I would say.

How valuable is the experience gained from riding a range of different bikes in the National Superstock class, to then be able to hop on a Superbike and provide the feedback that they encourage you to give? 

That side of things has been awesome, and I think it has played a big part of them giving me the opportunity to ride the Superbike. I think one of my strengths which probably comes back to racing in Australia, I seem to have a good sensation for what the bike is doing and be able to give a good amount of feedback on that. In the first years in AUS we weren’t allowed data or telemetry and all of that sort of stuff, so it was always rider feedback that you relied on. Obviously now moving over to here, sort of still having and wanting to provide as much feedback as I can when the guys can jump on the computer and confirm whether it’s right or wrong, or what they think of it. I think having this season with the DAO team to show that what I am saying most of the time is what the computer is saying, they’ve taken a lot of confidence from my feedback. They trust in what I am saying and I think we showed with the stock bike that we were able to make some huge inroads on that, so I think that was also part of the reward in letting me ride the Superbike was that actually I might be able to offer something to the team in trying to move forward when the whole project.