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Donington WSBK: ‘Misbehaving bike’ gives Brookes setup direction

Reigning MCE British Superbike Champion Josh Brookes managed his first top-ten of the 2016 World Superbike season so far at Donington Park yesterday after changes to his wheelbase and swingarm position coupled with turning off a majority of electronics aids gave him grip he didn’t realise he was missing.

The Milwaukee BMW rider - who was first of the S1000RRs home - had spent most of the weekend without the ‘rider aids’ in order to get the bike to misbehave and then see what improvements needed to be made to mechanical grip that can be masked by traction control and anti-wheelie systems.

“It was a lot better. I was finally able to get a sweat on from racing, steering the thing, forcing the tyre into the ground and getting it to squirm - not because it hasn’t got contact but because it has got grip and I am able to push it, it makes a big difference,” said Brookes, speaking to bikesportnews.com at the track.


“Not only was I able to race my own bike but also with other people on the track, ‘Get out the way, I’m coming through’, that kind of thing. I was able to start seeing where I was quicker and plan passes. I actually got fatigued because I was able to ride for once. Most of the year my muscles have been in stand-by because I have been at the limit coasting around the corners.

“At previous races, where we have been particularly bad, it isn’t like we have been at the limit of the bike, it has been like being a passenger but in that race I was more at one with the bike. I was able to be involved with what was happening, using bodyweight to go quicker, that kind of thing. In previous races, I have been a little demoralised by the lack of feel.

“Yesterday we tried a swingarm pivot move. It wasn’t so much a stab in the dark but a toe in the water. We had ideas about what it would do but it needed to be tested. Often this year we have tested stuff and it has had no real benefit so we were reluctant to try it for the race. We thought we’d try it, see how it felt, write down what it did and go back to the best we knew.

“What happened was we found some grip where I didn’t know I was losing grip. Almost in a straight line, where I thought it was acceleration and nothing to do was grip. So we took that good element, moved the wheelbase, changed the gearing and tried to incorporate that into a good package, and we gained somewhere without losing somewhere else. Normally, it’s like robbing Peter to pay Paul, you never get a clear advantage but this change made it better in a lot of ways.”

A lack of feel with the throttle connection has been the biggest problem this year but Brookes ran without the split-throttle system, which will be outlawed next year anyway, and it seemed to help.

“We started the weekend with almost no electronics. Throttle control is always electronic, you can’t turn it off, we ran without the split throttles, without traction control, without anti-wheelie. Yesterday in the race I added some traction control as the tyre went off but it didn’t have any benefit. Today we left the traction control on, added in some anti-wheelie because we made the wheelbase shorter, it was trying to wheelie too much. Some of the electronic aids were on but in general we have focused on mechanical grip, letting the bike behave badly so we can focus on the mechanical stuff,” Brookes added.

“When all the electronics are on, the bike doesn’t do anything wrong but I can’t go fast so we needed to get the bike to misbehave so we identify the problems and make appropriate adjustments.”

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