Author: Dave Fern Posted: 21 Dec 2015
Josh Brookes was finally crowned British Superbike Champion this season after seven years of trying.
The Aussie had come so close several times in previous seasons, but this time around his determination, matched by Shaun Muir’s Milwaukee Yamaha team, saw the goal achieved. It was a difficult campaign, in footballing parlance almost a game of two halves.
Brookes had been frustrated, yet patient, in the early stages as he buckled down to the task of converting the all new Yamaha R1 from road bike to race winner. That was achieved with the turning point coming at the mid-term round on the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit. He tasted the winner’s champagne for the first time there, savouring it so much, he completed the daily double, while for the four times title winner Shane Byrne it all began to go wrong from that point, his cause not helped by a high-speed crash.
Byrne had started his title defence on the back foot having sustained nasty hand injuries during Spanish pre-season testing and it was touch and go as to him being able to race at Donington Park but the PBM Kawasaki man rose to the challenge. He ran second in the opener to the season as James Ellison dictated terms on the JG Speedfit Kawasaki only for the Cumbrian to be denied the chance of a double by a flat battery in race two. Byrne took the honours.
Ellison was quick to make up lost ground, winning both races at the second road on the Brands Hatch Indy circuit from Byrne and Brookes with Ryuichi Kiyonari enjoying what was to be his best result of a miserable season for the Buildbase BMW rider. Tommy Bridewell showed a rare glimpse of his potential as the took his first win for the Tyco BMW team at Oulton Park, with Stuart Easton, having a strong opening sequence of early season results winning the second. Brookes podiumed twice, Byrne once, missing out on the second race after a tangle with an apologetic Kiyonari.
Byrne won both at Snetterton from Brookes while Ellison, going into the meeting as the series leader, was in the wars, breaking a couple of ribs in a crash in qualifying, as his ill-fortune of previous years returned. Byrne took full advantage with a double win from Brookes while Jason O’Halloran had his best day of a season, later to be wrecked by injury, with a pair of thirds for Honda. Byrne continued his sparkling form at Knockhill with team-mate Easton second each time from Brookes.
And so, back to Brands Hatch for what was to prove to be the pivotal sixth round. Byrne, on his favourite home circuit just held onto pole under challenge from Brookes but the Yamaha rider took the first race honours ahead of Richard Cooper and the returning Ellison. Easton crashed at 155mph at Hawthorn, sustaining serious leg injuries, while his bike, catapulting itself into the trees was destroyed. Minutes later, Byrne crashed in just about the same place. He limped away, the team rebuilt his bike. The Kent rider bravely rode into second place next time out as Brookes won with Cooper third.
Brookes had the momentum and drive. Another double came at Thruxton ahead of Dan Linfoot, returning on the Honda after breaking a wrist in the second round, Byrne. In the second race Luke Mossey enjoyed his first ever BSB podium as crossed the line third. The Hampshire circuit saw an end to James Ellison’s title aspirations as he crashed on oil and broke his wrist.
Brookes continued his relentless charge to take six straight wins as he dominated at Cadwell Park where local hero Peter Hickman took a pair of seconds ahead of Howie Mainwaring and Tommy Bridewell in each race respectively.
Byrne knew he needed something special if he was to take the crown for an unprecedented fifth time. He came back with a bang at Oulton Park to win two out of three races and it might have been a hat-trick but for a blown engine in the second race where Brookes took yet another win.
Ellison was back for the first time after his Thruxton injury and took a heroic second place in the first race as the title fighters were finally sorted. Brookes, Byrne and Ellison were joined by the Tyco BMW duo of Michael Laverty and Tommy Bridewell with Dan Linfoot also making the cut.
The Showdown sequence of seven races began at Assen. Brookes won both from Ellison. Laverty and Mossey shared the third placings while Byrne struggled to fourth and fifth. The writing was on the wall for him and although he took a second at Silverstone, there was to be no stopping Brookes. He won both times on the Northamptonshire Grand Prix circuit where Laverty’s improving form saw him take a then seasonal best result of second place in race two.
Brookes went into the final round with one hand on the silverware. After the first of the three races, he had it firmly in his clutches. He was the champion. He won again on Sunday and looked set to take a hat-trick until crashing out of the final race with the number one plate.
Byrne, finishing the term as runner-up took some pride with a pair of seconds and a third while Laverty signed off with a first victory of the campaign, ahead of Ellison. Those three are back for more in 2016 while Brookes moves, with the Milwaukee team, onto the World stage. Interesting times for each of them lie ahead.