Josh Brookes has admitted he may have to view the opening two rounds of the World Superbike season as 'a development stage' after coming to understand the steps his Milwaukee BMW has to take in order to be competitive at the Phillip Island test.
While working with several new faces from BMW in the SMR outfit, the reigning British Superbike champion couldn't find a solution for issues with throttle connection and traction control, concerns he acknowledged that could take time to iron out.
Brookes ended the eventful two-day test in Australia, which included a sizeable fall at the fast turn eleven on Monday, 15th. Grip issues when the bike was at maximum lean were the Australian's main complaint on day one but significant alterations to the S1000 RR's chassis had little effect in terms of feel a day later.
It left the 32-year old 'at a crossroads with which way to go' with the bike, but on Tuesday evening Brookes stated it was 'becoming more evident' that figuring the machine's traction control settings was his top priority, ahead of the season opener on Friday.
“We tried a number of different settings today but didn't improve on yesterday's time,” said Brookes. “It left us at a crossroads with which way to go with the bike. We did an engine change in preparation for the race this weekend. That cost us some time and then a number of red flags came at inconvenient moments. Things didn't really work out for us on a number of levels.
“The most important thing for me is that we find some solutions to the problems we've got with the bike. At the moment I'm looking more towards what we're doing with the throttle and traction control because they're having too much influence on the general feel of the bike. We've made pretty big changes with suspension and general chassis position and not found any major improvements.
“I'm able to do the same lap time on any set-ups with no real confidence in any particular area of what's good, or a direction to stay on. It's more, 'This is a bit better but this is a bit worse. That's a bit faster but that's a bit slower.' We're going round the houses a bit but not really putting our finger on the button.
“The only area that hasn't seemed to improve is the throttle connection feeling and the throttle maps, the traction control and the way that works. That's another area that's a bit out of our control as a team. We have new people and staff from BMW in that area but obviously that's a relationship that we need to build and they need to learn what I'm after and what gives me the most confidence. At the moment we haven't got that right yet and we're a little way off.
“It's becoming more evident to me. I was actually steering away from that, thinking we needed to get the chassis in a better range and then focus on the electronics later. It's almost like we need to do the opposite. We need to get the electronics working in a middle range, where it's consistent and I can use. Then that'll steer us in a better direction of what chassis direction and fine-tuning I want to do to get the best from the track.”
The Australian admitted to having one or two frustrated moments on Tuesday as a succession of stoppages slowed progress and track time down to a stuttering pace.
While lap times were consistent, Brookes felt they were not fast enough to be competitive and, as he learns the working methods of the new faces in his team – and vice versa -, he remains hopeful of finding a solution in the upcoming days before his first race in front of home fans since 2008.
“Not that I want to but I think I'll get to the point where I'll see it as having to be a development stage. I was hoping it would be more quick. But the beauty of bikes is how quickly things can change.
“We could have a debrief and a big discussion and look at data and start to communicate what I'm feeling and if there is some correlation between what I've got and what I'm requesting and they can relate to what my problems are then it may well be fixed for Friday practice. I could have a successful day where it's smooth and I start to make progress to the top ten, eight or five. You never know how quickly it could progress. That's something we'll have to wait and see.
“It's so easy to get frustrated, and I have today, got frustrated with the red flags coming out. I was like, 'God d**n!' I just need to be on track.' You have to take a step back and think, 'This isn't helping.' To be methodical and look at what's happening and make a clear plan.
“Like I was last year when I was winning. We were still making changes and improving because you're in a calm relaxed atmosphere. Even when you're winning you're making improvements and looking at what you can make better. You need to remember how you thought at that good point and not think of the negatives of being slower than you wanted, having less track time than you wanted affect the way you go about your regular business.”