During the TT Launch day, a couple of weeks ago on the Isle of Man, I got the chance to sit and talk with Joshua Brookes about his acclaimed road racing comeback. Unfortunately, once I switched my recording on, Josh was called for some official photos and his following busy schedule of the day just left me empty-handed.
One day later I was sitting in Ronaldsway, the small Isle of Man airport, waiting for my flight home. “Sorry, I don’t want to interrupt you… Would you like to do the interview now?“. Joshua Brookes was standing next to me, black-Norton-style t-shirt and trousers on, kind as always, with his lovely girlfriend Aimie.
The 33 years old from Sydney is a remarkable character, who had been a spectator at the Ulster GP and Cookstown 100 some years ago, waiting for his road racing debut.
And this came in 2013, when Joshua finally got the chance to ride at the Isle of Man TT with his former BSB team TAS Suzuki, setting a new record for newcomers straight away, lapping at the average speed of 127.726 mph and shattering the previous 125 mph newcomers’ record that belonged to Steve Plater. In 2014 Brookes joined Shaun Muir’s Milwaukee Yamaha squad, with an important 2nd place in the North West 200 Superbike Race, with a new lap record as well.
After that, though, a stop. Milwaukee Yamaha team asked Brookes to concentrate on the British Superbike only, in order to focus on winning the championship, and therefore to quit road racing. And Josh did both. As BSB champ he arrived in World Superbike in 2016, with the same team but on a different bike and the Australian struggled throughout the season with the new BMW. This year Brookes is back in BSB with TAG Yamaha, and the team left him free to join road racing again.
“I would have stayed in roads more years but the team choose a different path for me. Now with the team I ride for this year I have the chance to come back again. I think other people close to me are surely worried but you can’t choose your path on what other people think” says Josh.
Brookes’ comeback will be on board the beautiful Norton together with another Aussie rider, David Johnson, who will start at number one on the grid.
What about your start number Josh, are you happy with that?
“Yeah I’ve got number 16 but it’s not something I really care about too much. If I was further back than my current position it may be a problem, but the position I’m at is not a problem and I’m happy with it”
How was the Norton deal born?
“I heard through another team I was speaking to that Norton was looking to run two riders this year and not one and that they were still looking for the second rider as David was already confirmed. So I just rang Stuart Garner saying that I was interested in joining the project and maybe considering me for the chance to join. We had a few more conversations, a few more phone calls, some e-mails, discussing the bike, the testing, the mechanics, all this sort of important things about the bike and what we can expect. And then we both agreed to join”
What about your preparation for the TT after two years away from the event? How do you train physically and especially mentally for it?
“You can’t train so much for the mental side, it just have to be something you are good at. Physical side, I’m already ready because of what I do for my regular race season, so it’s not something I have to do more or extra for the TT, I feel like I’m ready now. I need to do some revisions, check the circuit again, remember all the corners from before”
How do you do that? Onboard videos, PlayStation?
“No PlayStation, I don’t enjoy that. Some onboard camera footage and, more importantly, actually be here, driving around in the car looking at the track and see if anything has changed, the tarmac or the bumps or something that may be looking a bit different from year to year”
So are you planning to come here on the Isle of Man again before the TT?
“Yes I’ll definitely come back, I haven’t actually booked anything but in the next weeks it’s part of the plan”
Are you going to do other road races this year?
“The North West maybe could be added to the plan but at the moment that’s not confirmed. If I’ll do the North West it will be with Norton”
On The TT Launch stage you talked about a possible Supersport and Superstock TT ride.
“Yeah I’m speaking with a team for Supersport, they’re interested in running a bike in the 600cc class. Also my team from British Superbike is maybe interested in running the Superstock. If all of these come together, that’s what will happen. But at the moment the only one really confirmed is the Norton ride”
Will you ever do other road races, maybe Ulster GP or Macau GP?
“No, I don’t have any interest, the TT has always been the draw for me. The North West is sort of like interesting but not really the focus. I was at the Ulster GP some years ago watching, but I don’t feel like racing this track”
The speaker announces our flight, it’s time to go, even if I had plenty of questions for Josh. Now we are really looking forward to see him again on Glencrutchery Road and on the beautiful looking and sounding Norton!