Ex-champ Brookes hoping to make roaring return to BSB
Josh Brookes, the 2015 British Superbike champion, will make a surprise return to the series this year on privateer Yamaha machinery. It follows a lacklustre and frustrating World Superbike campaign last term with Milwaukee BMW, which has left the talented Aussie out in the cold on the World scene.
Despite having discussed rides with some of the leading manufacturer-supported teams, Brookes has opted to sign for the second-string Anvil Hire Yamaha squad, where he will ride alongside Shaun Winfield in the hugely competitive BSB series.
But even more exciting for local race fans is the prospect of seeing Newtownards-based Brookes making a return to the roads this season. Strong rumours have linked the New South Wales ace with the famous British Norton marque for the 2017 Isle of Man TT Races in June.
This would seem a pretty calculated choice for Norton CEO Stuart Garner, who has in the past enjoyed success with two of Brookes' southern hemisphere countrymen - Cameron Donald and David Johnson - in the development of his project, which saw Johnson post a seventh place and 130mph lap last June.
That deal has yet to be officially confirmed or announced, but with a handsome purse being touted in numerous circles for a fortnight's work on Mona's Isle, it may well help Brookes top up his income, which for a season's work is said to be in the six-figure bracket.
Speaking of his return to British Superbike, which is ultimately the hotbed of racing where he made his name and subsequently went on to capture the 2015 title with Milwaukee Yamaha, Brookes - who was quite vocal in his disappointment of potentially having to return to BSB before the New Year - said: "I'm delighted to have signed a deal for 2017, after coming from a not so positive year in World Superbikes."
SMR team owner Shaun Muir crushed Brookes' hopes of a second year with his team in WSB. The Guisborough businessman preferred to sign Ulsterman Eugene Laverty and Lorenzo Savadori for his all-new factory-supported Milwaukee Aprilia World Superbike team for 2017.
Looking ahead to the 2017 season with the Anvil Hire Yamaha team in BSB, Brookes added: "It took a long time to get the deal across the line. I'm pleased it's all finally come into place."
Having spent seven consecutive seasons in the British Superbike paddock before finally tasting Championship success in 2015 with the official Yamaha team, it will be interesting to see if the talented Australian can replicate that title success this season without direct manufacturer support, in amongst an even stronger Championship line-up.
Brookes said: "In one way I'm happy to be back on a Yamaha; it wasn't the only factor I was focused on, but it certainly was a good element to the project that I'm back on a bike that I've won on before.
"It certainly has its advantages and it's a positive step for me knowing what I know about the bike."
With the likes of Sylvain Guintoli (Suzuki), David Giugliano (BMW), Leon Haslam (Kawasaki) and reigning five-time BSB champion Shane Byrne (Ducati) all on factory machinery, and not forgetting the official Yamaha UK-supported team of James Ellison and Michael Laverty, it promises to be an interesting return to the British scene for Brookes.