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Josh Brookes

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Peter Hickman and Josh Brookes are two riders who have proved that short circuit riders can still make the switch to the roads. Twenty years ago the, top British short circuit riders were all racing on the roads. Whether you were an up and coming John McGuinness, or an established star like Michael Rutter, it was expected that you would join the list of short circuit racers that raced on the roads. The practice was as old as factory contracts, and it was expected that if you wanted to have the best bikes in the British championships, you would race at the North West 200 and the Isle of Man TT. That practice has slowly faded out, but in recent years the move has been made by some short circuit riders to return to the roads.

Having claimed his 16th Isle of Man TT victory on Saturday, Michael Dunlop will start as the firm favorite when the second day of solo racing begins on Monday.

The Northern Irishman led the way in Supersport and Superstock practice during practice week, and his confidence will be high when he takes to the start line on Glencrutchery Road for the Supersport race.

Riding a self prepared Honda CBR600RR, he comfortably led the way in practice with a 127mph-lap, but he’ll know that winning on Monday will be a much tougher task than his Superbike victory proved to be.

There is no greater challenge in motorcycling racing than a superbike race at the Isle of Man TT. Wrestling over 165kg of hulking, brooding machinery around this legendary circuit is a challenge unlike any other.

For today’s RST Superbike race has the potential to be a six lap classic. With stunning weather throughout the week, there’s been plenty of time to get bikes setup, and complete lots of laps on the course, so plenty of riders have already set their fastest ever laps during practice week.

As a result, a group of riders are primed to bring the challenge to Michael Dunlop. The Northern Irishman may be the prohibitive favorite with the bookmakers, but he’s had a difficult practice week.

The 2018 Isle of Man TT is underway and Asphalt & Rubber has you covered to get up to date with some of the biggest names at the Isle of Man TT.

The road racing capital of the world is rarely called a paradise, but it is hard to look past that word when the sun shines on this 200 square miles of rock in the Irish Sea.

This week the sun is certainly shining, and practice week has already been one to remember. Lap records look set to be shattered as this past winter is banished from memory by the burning sun.

Above: Glen Irwin is a man fast on the roads and on the short circuits. He won the feature race at last year’s North West 200 and backed that up with a win in Macau. As I write this, he’s just won a race at the North West 200 on his Ducati.

If MotoGP contracts were handed out based solely on the character of a race track, then Oulton Park in England would be at the top of the list.

The city is set in the idyllic Cheshire countryside, only 30 miles from the Beatles hometown of Liverpool, and 13 miles from the historic city of Chester. The track is fast, techinical, with natural elevation changes and spectacular scenery.

There are few finer places to watch motorcycle racing when the sun is shining than at Oulton Park. The natural banking around the track offers great unobstructed views.

If you’re a keen photographer the circuit offers fantastic opportunities with very few fences getting in the way.

On first glance, the field looks to be close ahead of this weekend’s Suzuka 8-Hours. Yamaha led the opening session, Honda topped the second, and there are four manufacturers inside the Top 5, and all within a second of the pace.

It seems to be setting up for a great weekend of racing, but when you delve into the times it’s clear that, while Honda has made progress, they are still playing catch up with their CBR1000RR SP2.

Despite a crash for Jack Miller, the #634 machine led the way in the afternoon session, but with Yamaha electing to use only one set of tires in the session, their true one-lap pace is still unknown.

One of the most common questions about the TT is “how does it feel?” Asphalt & Rubber sat down with Josh Brookes at the 2017 Isle of Man TT to find an answer to that question.

Josh Brookes is as experienced as any short-circuit rider currently plying their trade. As a former Australian and British Superbike champion, World Supersport race winner, Suzuka 8-Hour podium finisher, and WorldSBK race winner, his CV is impressive, but it counted for very little when he made his debut at the Isle of Man TT in 2013.

That year, the Australian left the island with a lap record for the fastest newcomer, and his reputation enhanced as the most exciting up and coming rider at the TT.

He also left with an itch that has continued to require scratching. His return in 2014 saw him ride a Yamaha and claim a Top 10 finish at the Senior TT, but since then circumstances have forced him to the sidelines.

“I love the TT,” beamed Brookes. “I can now remember clearer just now much of a disappointment it was when I wasn’t able to come back in 2015. Having a year off as well, it meant that I fell back into my old ways of just focusing on short-circuit.”

“Last year being in WorldSBK meant that all my focus was on that, and it took away some of the disappointment of missing the TT. I did come over last year during the TT, and we went trial riding across the island to watch the races.”

“When we were watching all the other riders on track, it really started to sink in that I’d rather be riding than watching. Just riding the event isn’t enough for me; I need something more.”

It was a weekend of contrasts in Germany. Four weathers in a race weekend is usually something associated with Phillip Island, but with 86°F temperatures having welcomed the WorldSBK paddock from their summer break, the heat gradually transitioned to a downpour on a cold and windy Sunday.

With Chaz Davies and Jonathan Rea claiming the spoils in the races, there was little reason to think that this was a standout weekend, but in many ways the German round of WorldSBK could prove pivotal when the season concludes.

The 2016 Suzuka 8-Hours is in the bag, and once again the Japanese endurance race proved to be a formidable challenge to its competitors, and a great spectacle for fans.

As expected, this edition of the Suzuka 8-Hours saw strong teams succumb to the challenges of endurance racing – examples being the Honda factory-backed MuSASHI RT HARC PRO team, which had to retire early for mechanical reasons, as well as the SRC Kawasaki Team that also did not finish.

While there were surprises in defeat, we also saw surprises in victory, with the Yamaha Factory Racing Team once again winning the prestigious Japanese race. A repeat of last year’s result for Yamaha, today’s win is marks a shift in the balance of power for endurance racing in Japan.

“I’m very happy and very satisfied with this win, for me, for Alex and for Nakasuga-san because we really deserved it. From the start of the test we have worked so hard to get the best for us three,” said an ecstatic Pol Espargaro.

“After last year, to win two times with Nakasuga-san and one time with Alex is amazing. I’m sure Alex will complete the second one next year! I just want to say thanks to Yamaha, to all the people that support this fantastic team, because we are three riders but a lot of mechanics and other people work in the Yamaha Factory Team.”

“Thanks so much to Alex and Nakasuga, they were amazing today, I can’t say anymore, just thanks!”

The Suzuka 8-Hour endurance race is this weekend, and while the iconic race isn’t being broadcasted by a US television station, the Suzuka Circuit does make a live stream available via Ustream.

The live stream typically covers the Suzuka 4-Hour race (on right now, as of the time of this writing), as well as the free practice and qualifying sessions for the Suzuka 8-Hour. On race day, however, the stream usually just features a live-timing screen, which is still better than nothing.

You can find a schedule of the sessions on the Suzuka Circuit website, or just click right here.

The WorldSBK season goes on its annual summer break, with the championship suddenly poised on a much finer edge than was imaginable just a week ago.

Jonathan Rea’s dominance of the current campaign has been almost unparalleled. However, his run of 17 consecutive podium finishes to open the season is now over, and suddenly he faces a threat from within for his title defence.

This is because an engine issue left Rea on the sidelines in Race 2 at Laguna Seca, and suddenly his championship lead had been cut to 46 points. It is still a comfortable margin for Rea but suddenly doubt can creep into the “Team 65” side of the Kawasaki garage.

Tom Sykes’ win on Sunday marked a return to the winner’s circle for the former champion, and while he is still an outside bet for the title, he is at least back in realistic range of Rea.

This paints an interesting picture for the WorldSBK riders to consider while they rest over the next two months.