Roads: Josh Brookes to race for PBM Ducati at the North West 200

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Josh Brookes will race in both Superbike races at this year’s North West 200 after securing the seat vacated by Michael Dunlop at Paul Bird’s Ducati team.

Dunlop revealed that the deal between him and Bird for the Isle of Man TT and NW200 was no longer in place at last weekend’s 2022 TT launch, leaving the door open for Brookes to make his road racing comeback.

The Aussie’s last appearance at the NW200 came in 2014 with Milwaukee Yamaha, when he finished second to Dunlop in the feature Superbike race, setting a new outright lap record on the final lap (122.958mph) – a record which has still only been beaten once (Michael Dunlop, 2016, 123.207mph).

Brookes also podiumed in the Supersport class that year, finishing third on his R6 behind Alastair Seeley and Guy Martin. Brookes had only debuted at the event a year prior, riding for Tyco Suzuki, but had limited track time due to bad weather.

“I’ve only really had one proper go at it, and I did really well so I would expect to be able to be fairly competitive going back,” Brookes told MCN. “I think I have every chance of winning, the same as everybody else on the grid, but I’m just going to play it as I feel it, if I’m confident to push more and go fast enough to win, then I will, but I’ll wait until the day to make those judgements.”

Brookes is a racer who wants to take part in as many races as he possibly can. Whilst his MotoGP dream never materialised, he openly admits that the NW200 and TT are events which he always looks forward to, ones that he’s proud to have been involved in.

“I like any racing, but what stands out with road racing is the sense of freedom. Everything in the world seems to be controlled now; how much risk you can take, how much money you earn and the tax you pay. You can’t even go on the roof with a ladder anymore, you must have a harness and rope. Everything in life seems to be about how the world can control people, telling you what you can and can’t do.

“So, this feels like for once you’ve taken the reins back and you control your destiny. It sounds dangerous, but the reality is that you’ve got the choice of what you do; you choose when you open the throttle and when you brake, it’s all your choice. It’s getting that freedom back. It’s liberating.”

Brookes knows the V4 R well, having been with PBM since the bike’s introduction in 2019. He finished runner-up to teammate Scott Redding in his first season on the Ducati before securing his second BSB title the following year.

“I know the bike is certainly capable of winning when we have all the right ingredients in the right places. On a very basic level, nothing really changes with the bike. How we finish with the bike at Oulton Park should work quite well at the North West – maybe it’ll be setup a little softer to suit the bumps more, but not massively.

“I haven’t been to the North West in a long time, but I do remember it being a thrill. It’s definitely got a buzz about it. It’s high speed and high stakes, which makes it thrilling for the riders and exciting for those watching.”

Brookes at the 2014 NW200

Whilst he’s not a road racing regular, Brookes has also raced at the Isle of Man TT and the Classic TT in the past. Brookes debuted at the TT in 2013, taking a best result of 10th in the Superbike race onboard his Tyco Suzuki GSX-R1000, a feat he repeated 12 months later onboard the Milwaukee Yamaha R1.

Brookes took a sensational 5th in the 2018 Senior onboard the Norton SG6 2, setting a new personal best of 131.745mph – making him the fastest-ever Australian at the Mountain Course.  At the Classic TT, Brookes won the 2017 Senior Classic Race onboard Roger Winfield’s 1962 Paton 500

For Brookes, it’s not been a case of not wanting to race on the roads, but rather the issue of finances which has blocked him from competing. Having only one race week at the TT and a few days of action at the NW200 makes it difficult for riders to seek out sponsorship, unlike in a full championship where, as Brookes explains, “sponsors have plenty of races over a long period of time to get value from their involvement.”

This year’s North West 200 is the first since 2019. The 2020 and 2021 events were both cancelled due to the Covid-10 restrictions in place. This year’s event takes place between May 8-14.

“I have been trying to get Josh back to the North West for a few years now and it is great news that him and the PBM Ducati team will be on the grid this year,” NW200 Event Director, Mervyn Whyte added.

“I also spoke to Michael Dunlop yesterday and he has assured me that he will also be on the grid in two weeks’ time. That is great news for every road racing fan who wants to see the best road racers on the best bikes battling it out on the north coast.”