Josh Brookes happy to be under spotlight
Newtownards-based Aussie Josh Brookes became the fastest ever newcomer during last year's Isle of Man TT Races, setting a new best time of 127.726mph.
But despite his phenomenal debut and that record-breaking lap, one of the main talking points was the bright orange gilet design the British Superbike star had integrated into his Tyco Suzuki RST leathers.
Now with Milwaukee Yamaha for 2014, the former Australian Superbike champion and 2013 Suzuka eight-hour podium finisher, decided to go one better, turning up on day one of this year's event with an all-white astronaut suit and helmet design.
Explaining his thinking, Brookes said: "Last year the orange suit wasn't meant to be a point of conversation; it was to avoid wearing a flapping newcomers' vest.
"The initial reason was practicality rather than a publicity stunt, but as we found out, it turned out to be a talking point for everyone. So I thought I needed to do something individualistic again this year, so we went with the astronaut design."
Sadly the suit and helmet didn't sent the Aussie into orbit on day one, with reported mechanical problems halting his progress on both the Milwaukee Yamaha Superbike and Supersport machines – the same bikes he put on the podium at the North West 200.
It was a confidence denting opening night for Brookes, which he openly admitted. He said: "On the first night I just wanted to get some clean laps to get my head into gear. We weren't able to do that and it put me back a bit in terms of confidence and spooked me a bit with the problems."
Tuesday night produced two clean runs for the Milwaukee Yamaha man in both the Superbike and Supersport class with laps of 124.842mph and 122.296mph respectively. But there's a lot more to come as he told us, though the mechanical gremlins seemed to still be playing on his mind.
"It still wasn't perfect on Tuesday night but loads better for me confidence wise," Brookes explained. "In short circuit racing, problems with the bike don't really matter as falling off is part of the process, but it was much better with three laps on the Superbike and two laps on the Supersport."
Brookes will undoubtedly top his best from 12 months ago, but the burning question is whether he can push his Milwaukee Yamaha R1 Superbike into the regular 130mph-plus bracket to trouble the top six in only his second year.
The TT is like no other experience in racing, and this fortnight is all about confidence in your ability and machinery. Without it, it can become the longest two weeks of a competitor's season.
With two bikes to qualify and race, the talented Aussie is already finding the task of jumping from Superbike to Supersport machine not just so easy. But with his undisputed pedigree, he is expected to excel.
He openly admitted: "It's really tough and I've found it difficult to swap from one bike to the other. In Australia I used to race Superbike and Supersport back-to-back for five years. It's not that I'm unfamiliar with it, but around this sort of circuit it makes it quite tough to learn the track on two bikes."
Explaining where the difficulties lie, he said: "It's not so much the braking points, it's the gear pattern and hooking the right gears. On a 600 it is so crucial to be in the right rpm range at the right time to avoid screwing up a sequence of corners.
"You really have to keep the 600 humming and it's got to be revving like you are going to break it. But I'm coping with it pretty well and it's the same for everyone I suppose."
Former BSB star Peter Hickman set the quickest ever opening night lap time for a newcomer on Monday with a 115mph effort, which the Ice Valley BMW rider bettered on Tuesday night – upping it to 119.684mph.
He still has over 60 seconds to find to topple Brookes' aforementioned lap time from last year, but he could run it close.