Josh Brookes says battling with Shane Byrne toughened him up to fight for a maiden MCE British Superbike crown after dethroning the PBM Kawasaki rider.
Byrne and Brookes have produced stunning battles over a number of BSB seasons and 2015 was no different as the two went head-to-head for the title, with the Australian clinching the championship after fighting off his rival for victory in a thrilling race one of the season finale at Brands Hatch.
Despite their infamous relationship both riders have full respect for each other on track, with the new champion explaining it was his competition with Byrne which spurred him on to greater things.
“Earlier this year I went to the German championship and rode the IDM and during the races I was in a battle with some other guys and thought to myself 'this is easy compared to racing against Shane Byrne',” Brookes said. “When you race against a guy like that week in, week out it toughens you up and it really is a challenge. Any time you think you've got an advantage normally he puts something into the mix that makes you eat your words.”
Reflecting on his championship-clinching race victory, the Milwaukee Yamaha rider says it was an example of how tricky an opponent Byrne can be and with tongue in cheek likened him to a fairytale villain.
“I wasn't surprised to see him come past in the race, at the start of the race I did some good laps and I could still hear this bike singing in my ears and I knew it was Shakey right behind,” he explained. “One lap he sprung out from what felt like nowhere and got past me. I tried a bunch of times to get past but I didn't have the speed I needed or the form to keep that position and he kept fighting back which you would expect from Shakey.
“By the mid part of the race I felt I could maintain the speed and had a little advantage so I knew I had to put a pass on him and put a hard lap in to pull out a gap, then keep doing strong laps. That is the only way to fight him off, it sounds like he is a dragon or something!”