NORTON TURNS TO BSB CHAMP
Josh Brookes & David Johnson aim to improve on Norton’s stunning seventh in 2016
All of the buzz surrounding Norton’s appearance at TT 2017 has surrounded David Johnson setting off at number one in the Superbike and Senior TT races. The Adelaide man will be the first down Bray Hill in both big bike TTS on the new V4 SG6 racer while his Aussie team-mate, Josh Brookes, sets off at 16 in his return to the Island after a two-year break.
“I’m back and back on the Norton.” the 2015 BSB champion said.
“I’m going at number 16 and I think there is a justifiable buzz. The brand has a huge history and I think it’s going to be well supported by the British public. It’s got that cult following, that historic value, that patriotism.”
Brookes first rode the Mountain course on a Tyco Suzuki in 2013. The highest profile debutant since Steve Plater, the Australian’s lap at 127.726mph was the fastest ever by a newcomer. Although that mark was eclipsed by Peter Hickman’s 129.104mph a year later, the Bringelly man firmly established his road racing credentials by setting a new outright lap record at the North West 200 in just his second appearance at the event and went on to lap the TT at 129.859mph in the 2014 Senior TT. That was to be Brookes’ last appearance on the Island as he focused his efforts on winning the 2015 BSB series and then shifted to World Superbikes with Shaun Muir’s squad last season. Now back in BSB on the Anvil Hire Yamaha (see page 88), he has also decided to return to the TT. And he’ll do so on the Norton. He said: “I think that the bike has generally made good improvement. A few years ago it was probably one of the least desirable bikes to ride, but I genuinely believe that they took huge steps last year and from what I can see, because I haven’t ridden the bike, they have made further steps again.”
Brookes added: “One thing that was interesting when I first met Stuart Garner (Norton owner) face to face was how much desire he has to win. He’s not just happy to be improving and putting on a good show, he has an absolute clear desire to win a TT.”
Brookes says he thinks the new Norton will help him to get back in the groove on the Mountain course after his two-year sabbatical. He added: “The first year on the Suzuki, the bike worked superbly and it gave me confidence and inspired me to go faster.
“I felt completely at ease and didn’t feel I was trying to do too much, too soon. Then, the following year, when I rode the Yamaha I wasn’t at ease with the motorcycle. It wasn’t doing all the things that a good working motorcycle should do. I was having to do things with my body to keep the bike stable and in a straight line at times when it shouldn’t have been much of a task.”
Brookes has talked about the possibility of doing a 132mph lap but he remains cautious about making predictions for TT 2017.
“I find that for this event it’s dangerous to try and pinpoint a particular target like a position or a lap speed, but people always want a more juicy answer than that and I think my aim of a top 10 is the most I’m prepared to admit to,” he says.
“I finished in the top ten in my first ever superbike race at the TT and there are a lot of justifiable reasons why the bike and myself are well within reach of another top ten. Whether I could extend that to a top five or better is the big question.”
Although the TT organisers will be delighted to have Brookes back on the Glencrutchery Road start line, the former BSB champion doesn’t see his future in road racing in spite of his lacklustre 2016 WSB season on a BMW that he never looked overly comfortable on.
“For me the TT is a stand alone event and I don’t have a draw to road racing as such,” explains Brookes.
“If I had to choose one or the other I’m still very much on the short circuit page but it doesn’t mean I’m not extremely motivated to do the TT. I can’t wait to get going on the Norton.”
‘Whether I can push for a top five finish is the big question’ JOSH BROOKES
Norton team-mates Josh Brookes and David Johnson
ISLE OF MAN TT COUNTDOWN 52 DAYS TO GO