BSB Rider of the Year: 1st
1st – Josh Brookes
Average poll score out of ten: 9.09
After years spent as a close contender and at times a self-confessed 'bad boy', it all clicked into place for Josh Brookes as he clinched a maiden British Superbike crown on board the new Yamaha R1 in 2015.
The Australian was eager to shake-off his bridesmaid tag and had the arduous task of turning a new motorcycle into a race-winning package with Shaun Muir's Milwaukee Yamaha squad. The season got off to a solid start with podium finishes in all but one of the opening ten races – with his one miss coming at Donington Park when he was pushed wide and off the track.
Despite another year in the Showdown looking increasingly likely Brookes was still considered an outsider for the title as the top step of the rostrum continued to elude him in the opening five rounds, while defending champion Shane Byrne steadily grew his championship advantage.
A new fuel tank and useful mileage on different circuits saw Brookes produce consistent form and keep pace with fellow front-runner James Ellison and Shane Byrne at the pivotal round of the year – round six at Brands Hatch.
Brookes completely dominated at the Kent track in July by taking his first victory on the new R1, which coincided with heavy crashes for both PBM Kawasaki riders Byrne and Stuart Easton to create a mighty swing in momentum. The Milwaukee Yamaha rider went on to win six consecutive races to stamp his authority on the championship.
However, Brookes wasn't going to have it all his own way with Byrne enjoying a small revival at the final round before the Showdown at Oulton Park. Mechanical issues saw Brookes effectively miss qualifying which forced him to start 30th on the grid for race one while Byrne claimed pole position.
The tenacious Aussie scythed through the BSB field to end the race an impressive fourth place – overtaking 26 rivals in the 18-lap race and finishing just 4.4 seconds behind winner Byrne – but post-race Brookes made his grievances clear, protesting that BSB officials had shown favour to his rival by not calling out the safety car for a crash in the midfield pack.
The incident was laughed off the next day and Brookes produced the perfect response by clinching victory in race two, but his championship lead was cut to single figures heading into the Showdown when Byrne claimed a second win of the weekend in the triple-header finale.
Having been in a similar position over previous years, the Milwaukee Yamaha rider ensured no doubt could creep in by producing his best performances of the season when it mattered most. Seven victories in eight races, including seven pole positions and four fastest laps in that run, meant Brookes was effectively untouchable in the Showdown and duly wrapped up an emotional maiden BSB title with two races to spare.
The 32-year-old leaves BSB on the greatest high having won the title along with the full respect of the paddock and the fans and now prepares to step up to World Superbikes with Shaun Muir's squad in 2016.
Josh Brookes in the BSB Rider of the Year poll
BSB Rider of the Year poll 2014: 9th
BSB Rider of the Year poll 2013: 4th
BSB Rider of the Year poll 2012: 3rd
BSB Rider of the Year poll 2011: 8th
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About the vote:
Rather than repeat the Riders' British Championship standings, the BSB Rider of the Year poll asks viewers to take into account factors such as machinery, performance relative to a team-mate, riding style, experience, injuries, progress and personality just as much as race results and scoring each of the top twenty from this year's BSB standings with a mark out of ten.