Josh Brookes takes the cautious road at North West 200
Australian British Superbike star Josh Brookes says he will not take unnecessary risks at this week’s Vauxhall International North West 200. But the Milwaukee Yamaha rider firmly believes he has the team and the machinery to make it a successful trip to the north coast.
Newtownards-based Brookes comes to this year’s North West with just a handful of laps under his belt around the 8.9-mile triangle, having rolled up 12 months ago as a newcomer with former team Tyco Suzuki.
But having studied the circuit and prepared meticulously, the 31-year-old, who won last time out with Milwaukee Yamaha at Oulton Park’s BSB round on May Day Monday, is quietly confident of displacing Mar-Train Racing’s Alastair Seeley to become the north coast’s new top dog.
“I’d be happy with a podium at the North West this week, which is not like me, but in saying that we have the team and the bikes to win should the opportunity present itself. If my Milwaukee Yamaha is good enough to beat Shakey Byrne in BSB trim, then it’s good enough to beat anyone,” explained Brookes.
In recent years, the biggest winner at the Vauxhall International North West 200 has been the weather, and with inclement conditions again forecast this week, I believe we may well see Race Director Mervyn Whyte opting to utilise the flexible road closing order — that was sensibly amended by Government.
Wet or dry, two local men who will feature strongly are Michael Dunlop and Seeley.
Dunlop’s exit from the factory-supported Honda team was well documented, with the Ballymoney man opting for BMW Superbike and Superstock machinery this time around.
Ironically, the first race on this year’s NW200 schedule on Thursday night is the Ballymoney Borough Council Supersport race. Dunlop will ride an MD Racing ‘special’ in the event, which is in fact a Honda CBR600RR.
It’s the same bike that the 25-year-old took to victory at the Cookstown 100, and having taken the Supersport victory on Race Day Saturday last year, I fully expect him to be one of Seeley’s main challengers in the Supersport races, despite the Carrick man riding his British championship winning Mar-Train Racing R6 Yamaha.
Brookes is also Yamaha mounted in the Supersport class and despite not having ridden a ‘600’ for six years, the Aussie was bang on the pace at Cadwell Park during a recent test.
Another local man who cannot be discounted in the Supersport class is William Dunlop.
Like his brother, he too has an Irish national middleweight victory to his name this year, the Tyco Suzuki rider taking the victory at the Tandragee 100.
Looking at the entry list there are up to 15 riders more than capable of podium honours in the Supersport class.
The usual suspects include the aforementioned riders, Brookes, Seeley and the Dunlop brothers; add in TT Legend John McGuinness [Valvoline Padgett’s Honda], Ian Hutchinson on a second Milwaukee Yamaha; Kiwi Bruce Anstey [Valvoline Padgett’s Honda], Tyco Suzuki’s Guy Martin, Keith Amor [Honda], The Smiths’ Triumphs of Gary Johnson and Michael Rutter and Maguiresbridge lad Lee Johnston on the East Coast Pirtek Honda – then we are set for two freight-train-esque encounters this week!
One man I haven’t mentioned is Manxman Dan Kneen on the Cookstown B.E Racing Honda. The Braddan man has impressively won races at Cookstown and Tandragee as a newcomer already this season, and under team owner John Burrows, don’t discount this lad.
Thursday night will also see Supertwin and Superstock action. The Supertwin races have been geared up for a KMR/SGS Kawasaki full podium with team owner Ryan Farquhar  set to dice with his team-mates Keith Amor  and Jeremy McWilliams [who turned 50 in April] for the top step.
Again, a certain Michael Dunlop will be fired-up to spoil the KMR party, aboard a McAdoo Racing Kawasaki on his international Supertwin class debut.
Others worth looking out for in the ‘650’ class are Jamie Hamilton, Dean Harrison, Lee Johnston, Dan Kneen, Ivan Lintin and of course TT winner James Hillier. All the main runners will be on Kawasaki ER6 machinery.
The Superstock class should again be dominated by former winners like Seeley on the Mar-Train Racing Kawasaki.
Official Honda duo John McGuinness and Conor Cummins will fancy their chances, with Lee Johnston [East Coast Honda] looking to win the race for personal sponsor Pirtek, who are the race sponsor on Thursday.
Roads close this morning at 9.15am for the opening practice sessions. First on the road are this year’s newcomers at 9.45am for a 30-minute session, followed by 45-minute sessions for: Supersport [10.30am]; Superbike [11.30am]; Supertwin [12.30pm] and Superstock [1.30pm]. Roads re-open at 2.45pm.
Belfast Telegraph Digital