Yesterday produced a number of shock announcements in the motorcycling world.
Jonathan Rea’s Ten Kate Honda World Superbike team all but confirmed veteran Ruben Xaus as his 2011 team-mate and Englishman Tommy Hill, a strong favourite to join Philip and Hector Neill’s Relentless by TAS Suzuki BSB team, opted instead for Shaun Muir’s all-new Swan Yamaha outfit.
The Moneymore-based official Suzuki team were not to be outdone, making a swift double signing of Australian duo Josh Brookes and Cameron Donald.
Melbourne lad Donald is a well-known figure in County Tyrone, having based himself in Cookstown during the International Road Racing season for the past two years.
He will continue for a third year with TAS Racing alongside new recruit Guy Martin, but Brookes was certainly a bolt from the blue announcement for their 2011 BSB campaign.
The New South Wales 27-year-old finished second in this season’s British Superbike Championship after five wins and 13 podiums with HM Plant Honda, but unbeknown to the general public, the former Australian Superbike and Supersport champion was forced to follow team orders late in the year — and with that, he knew the writing was firmly on the wall.
“I knew Honda was having different problems throughout the year, but I also knew my value was going up because of my results, and I was confident I wouldn’t struggle for a ride,” said the straight talking Aussie.
“But on top of that, they wanted me to agree team orders for the last two races of the season and I wasn’t happy how it was presented to me. Basically there was no incentive for me to do it, but I agreed even though I knew it would never be the same again, even if I stayed for 2011. So when Philip Neill rang me at home in Australia, and we discussed his ideas, I was keen to go with the Suzuki deal straight away.”
Brookes will make his Relentless by TAS Suzuki debut at a Spanish test in early December alongside his yet to be announced 2011 British Superbike team-mate, but even more exciting for local fans, is his choice of home from March next year.
“I’ll be coming from Australia to live in Northern Ireland during the season, which I’m really excited about,” he said.
“I’ve never been to Northern Ireland before but I’ve heard so much about it and the likes of the North West 200, so I’ll be able to concentrate on my training, riding some MX bikes, getting to know my new team and hopefully winning the BSB Championship.”
Michael Laverty who finished fourth in this season’s BSB Championship with the TAS team is expected to take up a new challenge at Swan Yamaha alongside Tommy Hill, or make a serious U-turn and join Crescent Suzuki — stripped of their official Suzuki support for 2011.
The TAS team are also keen to keep their NW200 secret weapon Alastair Seeley in the ranks for next year, with Moira’s Ian Lowry also discussing a possible return.
Shane Byrne is expected to be announced as Honda’s replacement for Brookes, in what has been touted as a potential one-man team for the Louth based outfit.