NOR­TON TURNS TO BSB CHAMP

Josh Brookes & David Johnson aim to im­prove on Nor­ton’s stun­ning sev­enth in 2016

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Sport - By Stephen Dav­i­son ROADS RE­PORTER

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

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