An exclusive interview with MCE British Superbike star Josh Brookes, who is moving from Tyco Suzuki to Milwaukee Yamaha for the 2014 season.

Australian Brookes - who made his Isle of Man TT and NW200 debut last season, in addition to finishing third in the BSB championship and runner-up in the Suzuka 8 Hours - talks about the team change and explains why Milwaukee Yamaha could miss the 2014 TT due to the new ECU rules...

Crash.net:
Where are you at the moment?

Josh Brookes:
I'm just washing my motocross bike outside the back of my garage because I've been out riding today.

It's a bit overcast and it's about 25 or 26 degrees, but over the past few days it's been in the mid to high thirties. I'm at home [in Australia] and I couldn't feel more relaxed, I feel really lucky to have my career in such a great sport and at the moment nothing compares to being here.

I'm enjoying the time I've got to the full and certainly the thing I miss most during the season is being at home.

Crash.net:
What kind of bike is it?

Josh Brookes:
It's not a Yamaha so maybe I shouldn't mention it, but it's a 1987 Honda CR500. It's the two-stroke, most of the bikes in my garage and even the jet skis are two-strokes. I'm a die hard 2 stroke fan. I'm running Castrol A747 at the moment and it smells great. The CR will put some manners on you if you're not careful but it's a great bike to ride.

Crash.net:
And what did you get for Christmas?

Josh Brookes:
I got some new equipment for my jet ski from my girlfriend because I enjoy doing that a lot. A couple of days a week we like to go down the beach to ride the jet skis. I ride the stand up and she rides the sit down, so when I'm jumping the waves she's staying more in the calm.

Crash.net:
What's your take on why Australia, with such a small population (23 million), produces so many top riders?

Josh Brookes:
I think you've got a lot of opportunities to test your skill on a bike here. Getting out on a dirt bike is easy because you've got so many fields and paddocks, if you haven't got access to them yourself, there's always a friend or a neighbour who has.

Out of a small population almost everybody's had an opportunity to have a go on a bike and that means you can figure out if you're good at it. There might be a load more great riders in the UK but maybe they never got the opportunity to have a go. They probably got a chance to play tennis, rugby or football but never got the chance to get on a bike.

In Australia we live in quite a harsh environment in many ways including the weather and even getting to school sometimes can be a bit of a journey. I think you just get used to doing the hard yards and because of that hard environment Australians in general tend to stick it out. Whether it's driving huge distances to a race or moving to the other side of the world for eight months to compete, we tend to dig our heels in to get the job done.

Both Troy Bayliss and Troy Corser had that raspy attitude where you dig in and don't let the bullshit get in the way. It's that attitude that gets you on in racing.

Crash.net:
How would you assess your 2013 season?

Josh Brookes:
The final BSB result isn't that satisfying. I mean I can't find a lot of reason to be thrilled by coming third. But I do get a lot of satisfaction from looking at the year as a whole. Competing in the NW200 and the TT and combining that with the BSB without compromising any of them feels like an achievement.

I think a lot of people thought I was trying to do too much and even my team manager Philip Neil thought so, but I feel that I managed to not let my preparation for the TT affect my BSB and I didn't let BSB affect how I approached the roads.

People thought that if I went gung ho on the roads, like I do at BSB, it might all end up as a flaming mess, but I know my limits and feel I was able to set the standard well. Adjusting between the racing types didn't give me any problems and when I went back to Knockhill, the event immediately after the TT, I had a brilliant race. Me and Shakey fought it out superbly I thought.

Despite the overall result not being what I wanted, there were moments in the year that I was really proud of. The Suzuka 8 Hours was one of those, I rode four of the eight stints that the team did, with the other two riders sharing the other four and we achieved second. Throughout most of the race we were the fastest package on track so when I look at that I feel proud of what I achieved for Yoshimura.

Finishing the season with three [BSB] wins was also great, so if I look back at the year in specific moments I feel happy with what I was able to do but collectively I don't feel satisfaction from coming third.

Crash.net:
What gives you a warmer feeling, what you achieved at the TT or in BSB?

Josh Brookes:
I can't really choose one above the other. As I just mentioned I feel that there were certain moments in the year when I had brilliant races, I really felt like I rode well and felt that I'd done myself justice.

At Cadwell for example, apart from falling off with three or four corners to go it was a great race. I'd dropped back to third or fourth and to some it looked like I wouldn't be able to challenge Alex [Lowes] but I came back and put a clean pass onto him.

I made a mistake on my own a few corners later, but it stands out in my memory as a brilliant race. It was great for the fans and great to watch and people told me afterwards how much they enjoyed it. I had moments like that in both series and it those moments that give me a good feeling and make me feel that I'm doing a good job for myself, the team and the fans. Those kind words are really what you're in the sport for.

The TT has definitely given me some very vivid memories though because I'd been building up to take part in that race for years, getting the finance, persuading the team to give me that chance, learning the track and so many other things. Also feeling the history of the event as I rode it made it special. It's not just the riding that makes the TT what it is.

Crash.net:
After you crashed out at Cadwell you actually looked pretty cheerful?

Josh Brookes:
Some people are good at hiding their feelings but unfortunately I feel that sometimes I'm just too easy to read and it's too easy to see how I feel.

People sometimes say that I should be happy when I come second or not so happy when I crash out. There are so many people on that grid who'd love to get a second or a third and when I look back to see how I reacted it looks as I'm taking it for granted and that I should be more appreciative. When I'm like that it's just the reaction of a competitive person and I need to know that I achieved my best.

At Cadwell I felt as if I'd done a good job. My racing isn't necessarily about the final result. Maybe someone like Colin Edwards is just enjoying getting paid for completing the final years of their career and getting satisfaction from other aspects of racing, particularly now he's on the CRT and off the face of the earth when compared to riders like Marquez. I feel his motivation has to be financial.

For me it's the opposite where financially there's not a lot in it when you've finished paying for visas, licenses, insurance, travel and living away from home. At the end of the year I've just kept my head above water financially.

For me it's all about what I can get out of racing at a personal level and not about how it'll affect my bank balance. I was happy at the end of that Cadwell because I was able to be the fastest. History records it as a DNF but for that moment in time I, and the people standing next to the track, knew that I was the quickest man on the day. I didn't feel sad because I was losing ten grand in prize money because that's not what we get, I felt I'd done myself justice.

If I'd sat in second or third without making a move, or rode around in second gradually losing touch with the leader that would have been a real disappointment. I may get a good result but deep down I'm calling myself an idiot and telling myself a thousand ways in which I could have done better. When people say that I'm not looking happy for coming second, I don't like it, but the truth is I'm not.

Crash.net:
Did you feel that the Suzuki had the speed to win the championship?

Josh Brookes:
No I didn't. That was part of the reason I left Suzuki and went to Yamaha. It wasn't for financial reasons or that I'd fallen out with the team or crew. For me that was the hardest part of it, telling those guys that I was going somewhere else. It's like politely insulting someone to tell your crew that you're going somewhere else.

The truth is I've done three years on the Suzuki and each year got podiums and the occasional win. If you look at three years running and it's the same pattern, how long do you continue doing the same thing? Anyone in business would say that if you don't change anything nothing changes.

The rules are the same, the bikes are the same so I asked myself if I should just continue and hope for a better result or make a change and give that change a chance.

I looked at Honda and thought I didn't want to go there...

Crash.net:
Did Honda make an offer?

Josh Brookes:
Yeah, I was talking to Neil regularly a few months before the end and he was saying they'd like me on board for the circuits and the roads. I considered it but deep down I'd already been there before and had left for good reasons and that it was basically the same set up as then. There was no change there.

I had an offer from a Kawasaki team as well and could stay at Suzuki but when I saw what Shaun [Muir, Milwaukee Yamaha] had, I started to think about the history of the bike model he was running.

Leon Camier won a BSB title on it, Tommy Hill's won a title on it, Ben Spies has won a world championship on it, Cal Crutchlow, Eugene Laverty and Marco Melandri have all won world level races on it. Josh Hayes has won an AMA title on it and it's had great success here in Australia. So you can see that that model of bike has had great success. If you do the same calculation for the Suzuki it falls way short.

I just felt I needed to try that bike. Shaun made an offer equal to the other guys who had offers on the table and I went with that. I would hate it if I went a couple of years further in my career and looked back and thought 'I should have tried the Yamaha'. I know that Shaun runs a great team so I'm happy to join those guys and be a part of it. We finalised the deal sometime around Silverstone.

Crash.net:
How important were the two elements of circuit racing and road racing in your decision?

Josh Brookes:
I'm still searching for that first BSB championship and that's what I want. It was BSB which was the main motivation to join SMR.

Crash.net:
What's your perspective on SMR's decision to withdraw from the TT?

Josh Brookes:
Initially Shaun said to me that they were having problems with the rule changes at the TT but not to panic and hopefully they'd get it sorted out. As the weeks went on things seemed to get worse and the TT organisers have now dug their heels in and decided not to budge. Shaun, the team and the sponsors feel they're being unfairly treated and have therefore decided not to compete there, as is their right.

I agree with them that they've had to put their foot down on this one. It's like at school, if you let the big guy push you around you set the stage for the rest of your time at school. That decision may mean that I suffer somewhat, but hey, I'm just a part of it there are so many other parties involved.

The decision's now been made and I believe it's the best one my team could make.

Crash.net:
How disappointing is that to you personally?

Josh Brookes:
BSB and circuits are always going to be my main focus. Guys like Hutchy and John McGuinness obviously do the circuits partly as preparation for the roads, but for me it's the other way round.

My career focus may be on circuits but at a personal level I do really enjoy the TT and NW200 and those give me a lot of personal satisfaction. You could say that I'm being greedy and that I'm riding the road races for fun and because it suits me.

Of course I'm disappointed by the news that my team have pulled out but I stand by the principles that they've made the decision on. I don't feel that I'm in the position to challenge for race wins at the TT anyway so it doesn't really matter to me personally what exact spec of bike I'm on. I do support why the team have made this decision though.

I ride the TT because I want to do it, it's not my career goal, it's more like the cherry on top of the cake.

As far as I'm concerned SMR have got some bikes there ready to go, those bikes were good enough to compete last year, the maintenance and racing schedule's all in place and all of a sudden the rules have changed. The amount of work involved in making those bikes conform to the changes is disproportionate and seems unfair when you consider that other teams don't have to do it.

I believe that Honda are using the HRC ECU and they're allowed to do that. As I know from last year, Suzuki will run their BSB set-up, it's only Yamaha who are affected by this change. Shaun's always had his TT bikes running separate specs from the BSB ones, like Honda do, and the Magneti Marelli ECU that Shaun runs on them has now been made illegal.

Crash.net:
Before signing with SMR, had you ever ridden the Yamaha before?

Josh Brookes:
No, I never had.

Once I got home and my contract period with Suzuki had expired I went to ride one at Philip Island for a track day. The one I rode was something around Superstock spec but it was all pretty standard. It's a long way from what the BSB bike will be but it gave me a taste of what the bike's like.

During the year I've always enjoyed listening to Milwaukee warm their bikes up in the morning and that crossplane crank Yamaha sounds like a monster, but once you're on the bike with earplugs in it's just another motorbike. There's certainly nothing about it which will be a hurdle or an advantage, it just felt like a nice bike to ride.

We're hoping to start testing in Spain in the middle of March so I should know more about how the bike feels then

Crash.net:
And it looks like Tommy Bridewell will be pushing you pretty hard next season?

Josh Brookes:
Yeah, I think it'll be good to have a team-mate who's strong, or at least I think so because I don't like to be beat!

He'll be fast and he's already proven himself on the Yamaha so hopefully his settings can help me too. It's particularly useful in testing to have someone fast that you can compare yourself to. Hopefully if we push each other from the start we can have a strong season.

Crash.net:
You're a motorcycle racer, but have you been finding yourself getting into cricket recently?

Josh Brookes:
I won't try and upset you by saying how proud I am of our cricket team because I didn't see it but it's just great that we didn't get flogged!

Crash.net:
Thanks Josh.

Josh Brookes:
No problems.

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