Photography By Andrea Wilson
Next weekend at Silverstone former Grand Prix racer Jeremy McWilliams will return to the MotoGP Championship in a one-off wild card ride in Moto2 aboard the Bennett’s Brough Superior Carbon 2 racer. Originally British Supersport racer Luke Mossey was slated for the one-off ride, but for reasons unspecified those plans fell through and the team needed a rider. So they called on the 50-year old Ulsterman and after testing the machine at Mallory Park this past Wednesday, McWilliams agreed to step in at a moments notice – roughly a week before bikes hit the track at Silverstone on August 29.
“They had a rider lined up but it had fallen through and they needed somebody to help out and see if we could get this across the line, firstly going testing on the bike and get some feedback to see where we would go from there,” McWilliams said. “I rode the bike and we made some progress and then quite quickly from there we had to make a decision whether or not we could compete on this bike at the British Grand Prix. And I said I just wanted one more test on it and if we could do that I think that we could probably race it. So really it was just one of those whirlwind things that happened and you’ve got to make decision quickly.”
The Brough Superior Moto2 racer was a combined effort of Los Angeles Brits – Paul Taylor and designer John Keogh and the goal was to look outside the box of traditional chassis designs.
“It’s a carbon composite monococh chassis with quite a different innovative front end which is not conventional,” McWilliams said. “Moto2 at the minute is pretty much of a one size fits all and the class needs new ideas and innovation and that’s what Brough Superior and Taylormade are trying to bring to Moto2. I like that idea and I like challenges. I like people who are thinking outside the box and that’s what they are doing. Certainly at the moment [they] haven’t proved whether that is or can be competitive, but you never know if you don’t try.”
The British designers found the perfect match with an old British brand that’s set for revival – Brough Superior. Add to that a good British sponsor –Bennett’s Insurance – and veteran racer McWilliams, a perfect way to fly the flag at the home Grand Prix.
“They’ve come over and struck up some partnership with Brough Superior which is an old British mark that’s relaunching quite soon so it fitted with the brand and maybe it fitted with an older British rider riding it as well,” McWilliams said. “But that wasn’t their intention. There intention was to run with a young up and coming British rider and that just didn’t work out.
“And I can see the importance of them having to race this British named bike with British support and I’m here to help out and hopefully get them to the next stage so that in the future they can race in Moto2 with a young up and coming rider. But at the moment all those riders seem to be tied into contracts or unable to commit to this one off wild card ride.”
McWilliams has ridden and raced a wide variety of motorcycles over his career and has been apart of developing them as well. So what were his first impressions of the innovative machine?
“Well the first impressions weren’t great because they had sort of gone in a different direction than what they had been working in during their testing phase,” McWilliams said. “It wasn’t until we started making steps back towards that setup that I started feeling confident. We virtually just ran out of time on the day to make another couple of steps where I wanted to go, to change a little bit more to suit me. But it was a last minute test and we had very limited time on track. I thought the bike was pretty good for what it was. I didn’t go with any preconceived ideas of what to expect I just rode the bike and spoke to the team and they reacted to what I wanted and we got to a point where I was pretty happy with the bike.”
Even at 50, McWilliams has still shown to be competitive. But McWilliams is being realistic about racing in Moto2 with a new bike.
“It’s of course, you don’t know how competitive that bike will be and certainly I’ve got to consider that me jumping into another championship which is far more competitive than just stepping into an XR1200 race at Indy,” McWilliams said. “This is the real deal. This is going to be really difficult to be competitive, but there are no big expectations. We want to test and race at the same time and get feedback so that the team can make a decision on what to change and where to go forward in the future.
“I’m trying not to have any expectations, but secretly you dream about where you’d like to be on that grid and in that race. But I like to take sort of one step at a time and set goals. Once you’ve got somewhere you can then be realistic about where to set the next goal. I can’t set my expectations very, very high because we just don’t have much time on the bike and much time for me to adapt to the bike. The one thing that we de have on our side is changeable weather, conditions and temperatures in the UK and that might play into our hands. So I suppose anything could happen.”
McWilliams said in addition to helping the project and the team move forward, the opportunity was something that he felt had to be explored.
“I had the organizer call me and ask me would I be prepared to do it, you know, that means a lot,” McWilliams said. “When you’ve got Dorna and IRTA calling you and asking you would this be something that you think you’d be interested in, you have to take a little bit of notice. They’re very sure what age I am and opportunities like this don’t pop up for 50-year old riders to race in what is deemed to be a young class full of really hot headed riders. It’s a cutthroat class. If you watch Moto2 you can understand it’s really competitive all the way down to the very last group. I had to consider that before saying yes, but I think an opportunity like this is something that needs to at least be explored.
“And if we completely bomb it won’t be from the lack of trying. We’ll be putting in one hundred percent on the weekend. If we the get bike within an area where I can really ride it to the limit, than we should get something out of this. And again that goes back to the question before, we’re not sure what that might be, we’re not sure where we’ll place. Maybe that’s why I’m doing it because it’s an unknown and there’s not many people that would take this on. And there’s certainly not many more times in your life or my lifetime that we’ll see someone my age jumping into the Moto2 category and giving it a go.”
McWilliams fresh off his XR1200 win at Indy doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon, putting ageist restrictions to the test. Is he sure he’s 50?
“It’s funny isn’t because all the way through riders careers… you’ve seen this and you heard it all the way through… riders are always lying about their age,” McWilliams said. “I’ve never lied about my age and actually now that I’ve got to this age and we’re still competitive, I’m shouting from the rooftops my true age. It actually makes me feel better that I can still be competitive at this age.
“Honestly speaking we got more publicity and press out of the race at Indy than we ever would’ve imagined and part of that comes down to the age thing and not racing in the championship day in, day out. There’s a lot to be said for it and maybe that’s what motivates to keep riding and trying to at least keep myself bike fit because I sure as hell haven’t done anything else except ride motorbikes.”
The one thing the Ulsterman regretted a little bit was maybe bit more time on the bicycle, but he’s wasting no time on that either hitting the training regime in preparation for next week. But even still, he thanks his genetics and says that he feels it’s all about bike fitness.
“I’m pretty lucky I’ve got a fair bit of natural fitness and it’s really all down to bike fitness more than anything. So I’m going to be relying on Clinica Mobile to look after me so to speak over the three days at Silverstone… be lots of sore and tired muscles and massages, and maybe some pain killers,” he said with a laugh.