Josh Brookes eyes North West 200 shock after filling PBM Ducati void left by Michael Dunlop

Double British Superbike champion Josh Brookes believes he can be in the mix for victory at the North West 200 as he returns to Irish motorcycling’s showpiece event for the first time in eight years.

By Kyle White
Sunday, 8th May 2022, 8:02 pm
Updated Monday, 9th May 2022, 9:53 am

The Australian rider received an unexpected nod to race the MCE Ducati Panigale in the Superbike races after Michael Dunlop’s shock split from Paul Bird’s team.

Dunlop made the bombshell announcement last month at the official TT launch, and team owner Bird turned to Brookes to fill void.

The 39-year-old, who is based in Bedfordshire, last raced at the North West in 2014, when he finished as the runner-up in the headline Superbike race behind Dunlop. Brookes also set a then outright lap record on the Milwaukee Yamaha R1 on his last lap.

Josh Brookes on the MCE Ducati Panigale. The Australian rider will return to the North West 200 in the Superbike races for the first time since 2014.

It was an impressive performance by the Aussie, who only made his NW200 debut a year earlier for Northern Ireland’s Tyco Suzuki team.

And despite his long absence, Brookes doesn’t think he’ll be far away from the front in Saturday’s two Superbike races at the 8.9-mile ‘Triangle’ course, where Carrickfergus man Glenn Irwin is bidding for a fifth straight victory in the blue riband class on a Honda Racing UK Fireblade.

Three of Irwin’s four consecutive Superbike victories were achieved on Ducati machinery for Bird’s team in 2017 and 2018.

“I’ve every confidence in the bike and the team, and although I’ve not ridden there since 2014, remember I nearly won the Superbike race and set a new lap record at the time,” said Brookes.

“So, our expectations are high and I’m really looking forward to it and seeing the fans back after the past couple of years.

“We didn’t have any plans to contest the North West 200 originally as part of my deal with PBM and the MCE Ducati Racing Team this year, but it came as a pleasant, last-minute surprise when the opportunity arose.

“The question everyone is asking is just how competitive the MCE Ducati will be around the NW200 track and that’s a question I can’t answer until I’ve ridden it.

“But I have no reasons to believe we can’t do well, or really well in fact. The Ducati is known to be fast and although we are missing a couple of tenths in BSB, I don’t think that will be a problem with the very nature of the event,” he added.

“I spent a lot of years living over in Northern Ireland so it will be good to see some familiar faces and hopefully the weather will be kind and we can get all the planned track time in.”

Brookes and former World Superbike champion Tom Sykes are spearheading the charge for the MCE Ducati team in the British Superbike Championship.

The North West will be a one-off race for Brookes, with the team stressing there are no plans to contest the TT with the Aussie, who last raced on the Isle of Man with Norton in 2018.

The addition of Brookes adds extra spice to an already stellar Superbike line-up, which also features top names including Peter Hickman, Dean Harrison, James Hillier, Alastair Seeley, Conor Cummins, Davey Todd, Michael Rutter, John McGuinness, Ian Hutchinson, Lee Johnston and Richard Cooper.

Roads close for the opening practice sessions on Tuesday, May 10 from 9.15am to 3.15pm as the event returns in anger for the first time since 2019.

Don’t Tuesday’s Keep ’er Lit (May 10) for a special eight-page NW200 preview.