It has been a long time since Broc Parkes has graced the World Superbike scene, but having re-established himself with a solid turn on a Kawasaki in 2009, he has been rewarded with a second consecutive season in the top flight with new privateer concern Echo CRS Honda.
Still looking to go some way to filling the shoes of retired champion Troy Bayliss, Parkes made his return to the class for the first time in seven years with the factory Paul Bird Motorsport Kawasaki team.
The first time he has secured manufacturer backing at Superbike level, Parkes has been a world championship contender for almost a decade now, even if he is yet to taste title success in that time.
Introduced to motorcycle racing at the age of four when he was taken to watch Australian hero Wayne Gardener compete, Parkes spent several years picking up dirt bike titles before embarking on his foray into road racing at the age of 16.
Winning the New South Wales 125 Grand Prix Championship in 1998, Parkes went on to take the national championship at 125 and also 250cc level in 1999, a win that smoothed his passage to compete in Japan with the heavily-backed Moriwaki Honda team.
With Gardener now acting as his manager, Parkes competed in the All Japan X Formula series and, at just 18-years-old, became a revelation of the series, racing hard on unfamiliar circuits to prove an immediate front runner. Winning races at Sugo and Tsukuba, a further four podiums helped Parkes to third in the overall standings. In addition, Parkes competed in the Suzuka 8 Hour race too, although a crash for his team-mate saw them finish down in 17th position.
With his results receiving plenty of attention elsewhere, it didn’t take long for the young Parkes to be head-hunted amongst he World Superbike teams so, despite the temptation to stay with Honda, he switched to Ducati to race with the NCR team alongside Giovanni Bussei.
With new circuits to learn and a bike that wasn’t as reliable or as competitive as its rivals, Parkes suffered a difficult first season with the team. He wasn’t aided by two large accidents at Sugo and Brands Hatch that ruled him out of four races while he recovered from injury.
Still, there were flashes of brilliance, Parkes proving his prowess in the ‘leveller’ that is rain when he competed for a podium during his home round at Phillip Island before eventually settling for fifth. Top ten results were hard to come by, however, with just a further seventh and eighth coming his way, leaving him down in an eventual 16th overall as the sixth best placed Ducati, but ahead of Bussei.
Despite the tough initiation, Parkes stuck it out with NCR in 2002, mostly because of a funding boost in the form of Parmalat, who leant their name to the team and became title sponsor. However, Parkes was now their sole rider and the lack of data hindered their efforts to feature amongst the best of the privateer entries, while a continued shortfall of resources meant he had to ride conservatively and not damage the bike.
Still, the Ducati was certainly more reliable, Parkes scoring points in most races, even if his best result throughout the season was a mere eighth place, achieved towards the end of the year when the team began to understand its Pirelli tyres better. Eleventh in the final standings was a solid reward for Parkes’ efforts, even if it didn’t open many opportunities to progress in Superbikes.
As such, Parkes embarked on a return to the Honda family, albeit in the World Supersport Championship, as he joined the relatively small Belgian-based BKM team. Although the deal came with factory support from Dunlop, money was again a contributing factor to Parkes’ performances over the season. His results were promising, scoring a top five result in Oschersleben, before scaling the podium at Misano behind only the factory Kawasaki and Suzuki entries. However, it wasn’t enough to keep the team afloat, BKM completing just one more race before folding three rounds prior to the end of the season.
Nonetheless, Parkes, having been briefly classified ahead of Honda’s factory supported rider Karl Muggeridge mid-way through the season, had not been forgotten by the works Ten Kate team and was promptly placed on a third bike for the final round of the season.
Although he failed to finish the one-off ride, it was nonetheless enough to convince the team to sign him for a full season in 2004 alongside Muggeridge.
On paper, Parkes enjoyed a career-defining season with Ten Kate, going all the way to secure the runners-up spot behind his team-mate. However, closer inspection reveals he didn’t once out pace his countryman and he didn’t top the podium over the course of the season.
Not retained by Ten Kate for 2005, Parkes side-stepped into what would become a lengthy tenure with the factory Yamaha Supersport team, which was widely considered to be the closest competition to the works Hondas. Run under the Yamaha Motor Germany banner, Parkes struggled initially to adapt to the bike, particularly compared to title challenging team-mate Kevin Curtain.
Lumbered with a best of fifth place for much of the season, Parkes’ season picked up in Germany with a run to second place, but it was his maiden victory in the final round of the season in France that helped him to a respectable sixth overall in the standings and earned him a second year with the team.
Again out paced by Curtain, Parkes nonetheless enjoyed a better season in 2006 with four podiums and a second win at Brands Hatch putting him on the cusp of title challengers Curtain and eventual winner Sebastien Charpentier. A strong end to the year for Kenan Sofuoglu, however, would leave Parkes an eventual fourth in the standings.
Yamaha Motor Germany became Yamaha World SSP in 2007 and Parkes followed them for a third season in an attempt to wrest the title of Ten Kate Honda. As it happens, Parkes’ season was over almost before it began, with only two finishes to his name in the first seven races. By contrast, eventual title winner Sofuoglu had not finished any lower than second as he romped to a dominant championship triumph.
Nonetheless, despite languishing down in 13th position at the mid-way point in the season, Parkes’ form picked up significantly in the final few races, scoring podiums at Misano and Magny-Cours, while wins at Brands Hatch and Lausitz would subsequently propel him into second place by the end of the year for his second runners-up spot in Supersports.
By contrast to 2007, the 2008 season started far better for Parkes as he swept to victory in the first round of the season at Losail. A retirement in the second round set him back, though, and he never quite recovered as arch-rivals Andrew Pitt, Jonathan Rea and Joshua Brookes established a consistent ability to challenge for podiums with Parkes. Indeed, Parkes was certainly a frontrunner throughout 2008, but he didn’t get above third position again until towards the end of the season when he managed a second place finish at Vallelunga.
Although he was notable for managing seven pole positions over the year and was in the hunt for the title until the latter stages of the season, a retirement at the penultimate round in Magny-Cours eventually consigned Parkes to fourth in the standings, albeit as the highest placed Yamaha rider for the second year in succession.
Despite his long and fairly successful period in the World Supersport Championship, Parkes was still a surprise choice for the factory Kawasaki team in 2009. With the bike proving a handful in 2008, Kawasaki underwent a few changes pre-season by replacing PSG-1 Corse with Paul Bird Motorsport behind the scenes in a bid to improve its fortunes.
Improvements were relatively meagre, but taking into account the increased number of works entries and an even stronger privateer contingent, Parkes did a respectable job of bringing the ZX-10R home in the points regularly.
Often qualifying for the shootout, Parkes returned Kawasaki to the top ten by round three, although tenth position was the best he would manage over the course of the season. Indeed, save for an impressive – if ultimately fruitless – performance at Miller Motorsports Park, Parkes was consistent, but not spectacular.
With increased investment from Kawasaki helping them land former WSBK runner-up Chris Vermeulen and ex-Yamaha rider Tom Sykes, Parkes found there was no room in the team for 2010, much to the disappointment of fans who felt he had done as well as the bike could manage.
Even so, while a return to familiar Supersport territory was mooted – possibly with Kawasaki -, Parkes was instead announced as the surprise signing for new-for-2010 Echo CRS, which will make its Superbike debut having graduated from the Supersport class.
Potentially a good opportunity to show Kawasaki what it’s missing, few will begrudge Parkes the chance to remain on the WSBK grid in 2010. Career Highlights:2010:
World Superbike Championship (14 races), Echo CRS Honda, 22nd
World Supersport Championship (3 races), Kawasaki Motocard.com, 15th2009:
World Superbike Championship, Kawasaki SRT, 18th2008:
World Supersport Championship, Yamaha SSP, 4th (1 win) 2007:
World Supersport Championship, Yamaha SSP, 2nd (2 wins) 2006:
World Supersport Championship, Yamaha Motor Germany, 4th (1 win) 2005:
World Supersport Championship, Yamaha Motor Germany, 6th (1 win) 2004:
World Supersport Championship, Ten Kate Honda, 2nd2003:
World Supersport Championship, BKM Honda, 13th2002:
World Superbike Championship, NCR Ducati, 11th2001:
World Superbike Championship, NCR Ducati, 16th2000:
All Japan X Formula Championship, Moriwaki Honda, 3rd1999:
Australian 250 Grand Prix, Aprilia, Champion