Josh Brookes has endured a nightmare start to his Bennetts British Superbike Championship title defence as the VisionTrack Ducati rider has yet to celebrate a podium finish and arrives at Brands Hatch for round three languishing down the order in 11th place in the overall standings.
At the opening round of the season, Brookes could only salvage a best result of sixth place in the third and final race of the weekend, opening his campaign with a tenth place in race one and a seventh place in race two.
At Knockhill the woes continued and Scotland became even more of a dent in his bid to score back-to-back titles, with a highest placing of tenth in the first race, which was followed up by 12th and 13th scores.
Brookes said: “I’m obviously disappointed with how Knockhill went and embarrassed to be that far back with the number one plate. It’s not natural, and it’s not normal for me to be in those positions and I’m in a bit of shock to be honest.
“The bike didn’t feel right from the moment we rolled it out the truck and it doesn’t matter what we have done, the feeling has been the same. I’ve had bad races in the past but not so many in a row like we’ve had so far this season. I’ve always been able to turn it round and end the weekend on a positive note, but that wasn’t the case at Knockhill. But we won’t give in; I’ll work with my team to sort what we need to.
“We have had no grip in the rear, so I don’t know exactly the source of the issue, but Oulton Park is normally a really good track for me, so starting there, I thought ‘this is great’, but then discovered that I didn’t have any grip. Then I thought, we would go to Knockhill and we had a couple of good days testing there pre-season and it will get going there, but in fact it was worse at Knockhill.
“I have expressed to the crew the best that I can how I feel about the feeling of the bike is and at the moment it is difficult for someone else to understand as they are not on the bike with me. On paper, let’s say the bike is supposed to be the same as we had last year, yet it doesn’t feel like that. It’s not a bad handling bike, it doesn’t become difficult to ride like wobble or weave or head shake or anything untoward like that. It does all the things you want it to do but just slowly because I have no grip.
“For some reason, something is affecting how the tyre generates grip and everybody has suggestions of what we could do, and we have already tried or looked into it. It’s a bit of a mystery,” added Brookes.
The title challenge moves to Brands Hatch next and the Grand Prix circuit where the Australian has previously been so dominant, winning ten of the last 14 races on the 2.4-mile circuit and a total of 19 races since 2011 to equal the record of victories set by Shane 'Shakey' Byrne.
“I am bothered by it because obviously important races are being lost,” said the reigning champion. “But I can’t let it affect me as I know in myself that there is nothing wrong with me. I have ridden for long enough that I know when it is all correct, I will be away and ride it like I ever have, but at the moment it’s a situation where if I try harder I feel like I could do damage to the bike or to me, which would be a worse situation.
“I have to unfortunately be patient and wait for either a solution or a resolution to be found. I don’t think the track make any difference as Oulton Park has been good for me before, and we had good tests at Knockhill, so that would suggest that whatever track we went to next, the problem is going to create the same level of misfortune no matter which track.
“If anything it is worst to go to Brands Hatch next as it is a track I would like to continue my success rate at! If I have a similar problem, I might be able to ride around it a bit better, but I don’t think it will be me racing the best bikes and riders in the championship where we should be.
“I hope that we can find a solution before Brands Hatch and just crack on as normal and just get things how they should be. It’s a couple of tenths between winning and where I have been these last few races, it’s the same amount of effort, but a couple of tenths is all it takes because of an issue to be finishing where we have been.”