The recent news that Josh Brookes will be returning to the 2017 British Superbike Championship adds further spice to what’s already a mouth-watering line-up. Having won the title in 2015, the Australian is a welcome returnee to the series although it’s fair to say his choice of team was somewhat of a surprise. And perhaps even a gamble.
The Anvil Hire TAG team had a good record in the Supersport class where they fielded, amongst others, Christian Iddon, Billy McConnell and Richard Cooper but since they’ve moved to the premier class it’s been a bumpy ride, particularly last year when the best race finish they managed all season was a lowly 13th. With class rookie James Rispoli on board, the switch from Kawasaki (upon which Cooper scored his maiden BSB podium) to Yamaha proved to be very disappointing.
But if anyone can turn the team’s fortunes around it’s Brookes, especially as no one has got the Yamaha to work as well as him. His previous two years on the R1, in 2014 and 2015, yielded 17 wins and 34 podiums culminating in the aforementioned 2015 title. That year was particularly impressive as he arrived at the first round with a road going version of the bike with just Ohlins suspension and slick tyres. Both he and the Milwaukee team worked tirelessly to develop the bike and they reaped the rewards in the Showdown when he took six of the seven race wins, only a spill in the final race at the final round at Brands Hatch denying him a clean sweep.
A step up in class for TAG:
The 33-year old is believed to have had considerable input in terms of the team structure whilst he’s also got the financial deal he felt he was worth, and rightly so, rather than take a cut in wages. He knows what it is required to make the Yamaha a race winner – with victory being the only thing he’s interested in – so it’s now down to the team to match his commitment. Their bikes have previously been some way adrift of the front but, equally, they’ve never had a rider of the stature of Brookes on board.
The Swadlincote-based squad have already confirmed they intend to match the aspirations – and expectations – of Brookes and having a proven race winner on board for the first time means they simply have to. A rider of his class cannot be in a situation where he is let down by his equipment or staff. It’s undoubtedly a major step up in class for the Anvil Hire TAG team so 2017 is surely a case of ‘put up or shut up’.
Strong 2017 grid:
The 2017 BSB grid isn’t yet full but the 22 riders that have already been confirmed ooze quality. No less than ten previous race winners are in the line-up – Brookes, reigning Champion Shane Byrne, ex-World Superbike Champion Sylvain Guintoli, Leon Haslam, John Hopkins, James Ellison, Michael Laverty, Jason O’Halloran, Tommy Bridewell and Peter Hickman – with another half dozen or so more than capable of adding their name to that list.
World Superbike refugee Davide Giugliano has only seen Silverstone, Donington Park and Assen before so has many circuits to learn but his world class credentials should see him challenging as will Tyco BMW team-mate Christian Iddon.
Luke Mossey made the Showdown in 2016 and is sure to be stronger this time around, where he can learn plenty from JG Speedfit Kawasaki team-mate Haslam, whilst Glenn Irwin should also be closer to the front after impressing greatly in his rookie season.
Dan Linfoot has done everything but win a race since he arrived in BSB so will be keen to put that right in 2017 with reigning Superstock Champion Taylor Mackenzie expected to make a bigger fist of things in his second BSB season.
Spaces to fill:
With a number of teams having dropped out of the series, most notably GBMoto Kawasaki and ePayMe Yamaha, series organisers MSV will still be hopeful of attracting some new blood to the grid despite all the leading riders now having been signed up.
The current field of 22 is certainly extremely strong but a few more riders would help swell the grid even further and if one or two teams can step up from Supersport or Superstock, and get the numbers close to 30, the 2017 BSB series will be better still.
Does Josh Brookes have what it takes to take the title again? Why not share your thoughts below…
Having started watching motorcycle races all over the world form childhood, Phil Wain has been a freelance motorcycle journalist for 15 years and is features writer for a number of publications including BikeSport News and Classic Racer, having also been a regular contributor to MCN and MCN Sport. He is PR officer for a number of teams and riders at both the British Superbike Championship and International road races, including Smiths Triumph, Quattro Plant Kawasaki, John McGuinness, Ryan Farquhar and Keith Amor. He is also heavily involved with the Isle of Man TT Races, writing official press releases and race reports as well as providing ITV4 with statistical information.