When the 2017 Superbike World Championship kicks off at Phillip Island today, it will be the culmination of two completely different build-ups for world champion Jonathan Rea and Aussie star Josh
Both are massively gifted riders, but with Rea currently at the peak of his powers – he’s shooting to be the first rider to win a hat-trick of WorldSBK titles – he’s enjoyed another brilliant pre-season on his factory Kawasaki, which has included upstaging a bunch of MotoGP riders in a combined MotoGP/WorldSBK test at Jerez last November, and then setting the fastest time in the final shakedown test at Phillip Island earlier this week.
Meanwhile, Brookes’ build-up has been all hustle and bustle as he and a small band of tireless helpers have been scrambling to prepare for his wildcard appearance at Phillip Island on the Yamaha he rode to victory in the 2015 British superbike title.
It’s been a hard slog, even at testing this week, but Brookes who hails from the outer Sydney suburb on Bringelly has enjoyed the hands-on experience – even though it’s been on a shoestring.
“I love racing so much that I have poured my own money into this campaign,” said Brookes at today’s WorldSBK season launch. “It has been a huge undertaking, but the excitement of racing was very much a drawcard. I hope we can leave Phillip Island with a smile on our faces.”
It’s a big change of scenery for Brookes, who this time last year was preparing for a return to WorldSBK full-time on a BMW. However, it wasn’t a happy collaboration with the German hardware and the New South Welshman is now heading back to British superbike – but not before he attempts to give the factory riders a scare at Phillip Island this weekend.
“Our No. 1 engine blew on Tuesday and this engine does not have the same top-end power as the other one, but it still drives off the corners really well so that’s a bonus,” Brookes said. “When practice starts tomorrow, my main focus will be on fine-tuning the engine braking as it’s a little loose under brakes at the moment.
“The Yamaha likes to be ridden like ‘Jorge Lorenzo’ – fast and flowing. When it’s all over the shop it may look good on television, but it doesn’t suit the Yamaha’s chassis.”
For ‘adopted Aussie’ Rea – he’s married to a Phillip Island girl – he’s just itching to hit the race track and let the real business begin.
“I am excited and happy to be back at Phillip Island,” he said. “I spend a lot of the off-season here and it means a lot to me.
“This year I reckon about five riders can win races week-in week-out, so the racing is going to be intense.”
Rea won both WorldSBK races at Phillip Island last year, but with the likes of his teammate Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) and Chaz Davies (Ducati) yet to win races around the 4.445km grand prix circuit, the action is set to be intense in the two 22-lap races.
Returning riders Marco Melandri (Ducati) and Eugene Laverty (Aprilia) are also desperate to return to WorldSBK on a strong footing, while Leon Camier (MV Agusta), Alex Lowes (Yamaha) and fast privateer Xavi Fores (Ducati) will also be contenders.
Practice and qualifying for WorldSBK starts today, followed by Superpole and race one on Saturday at 3:00pm. Race two is on Sunday at the same time.
This weekend’s action will also include world supersport and a full card of national support races.