An exclusive interview with James Westmoreland, who finished a career best fifth in this year's MCE British Superbike Championship with Buildbase BMW...
What did you get for Christmas?

James Westmoreland:
I got a few bits for my motocross bike but I mainly just had a nice time with the family.

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As for eating, I'm lucky because I'm pretty active and could actually do with putting a bit of weight on, so I can eat what I want and often have the biggest pile on my plate come diner time. I'm not like a jockey where I have to watch my weight all the time, I'm not on 125s, I'm on superbikes now and could actually do with a bit of body weight so I did well at the meals.

I don't drink and never have so that doesn't change from the rest of the year and an extra bonus is that I don't get any hangovers.

It's nice once you get to winter because the season is so busy and it's difficult to get into a proper training routine. Around this time you can crack on and get into a good routine and I'm really enjoying this winter because of that. It was a tough season and it's great to take a rest from it. It also helps that it was a good season so I'm looking back on that and recharging the batteries.
Where does your funding come from, do you have a day job?

James Westmoreland:
No I don't, I'm a professional bike racer. I'm employed by Buildbase BMW to do the best job I can in BSB. I also have a few personal sponsors who help out that I'm very grateful to. I can continue training in winter without worrying about how the bills will be paid
What kind of sacrifices have you had to make to be a bike racer?

James Westmoreland:
Honestly that's a difficult question for me because I've ridden bikes since the age of three and started racing at seven so I've never had a life without bikes. You could say that I'm not a normal person with a normal life. It's actually my family who made the sacrifices and without that we wouldn't be where we are now.

At school I didn't fit in and it's probably fair to say that I hated it, but that was probably due to the fact that I was doing stuff that nobody else was. Racing got me out of all that so perhaps the answer to your question is that I haven't sacrificed anything. I couldn't ask for anything better than what I'm doing now. It's not just the racing at the track with Buildbase BMW, it's also when I load up my motocross bike on a Sunday morning, I love it all. I even love the training, the cycling, the mountain biking and then having time to spend with my family - how can I say that I've sacrificed anything?
How much training do you actually do?

James Westmoreland:
I try to go to the gym four or five times a week, but I'm also out on my push bike and I go out motocrossing probably once a week. I'm quite a small person but I train hard. At the moment I actually feel pretty good at the end of a race so I think I'm in good shape. Having said that I don't want to shout about that because that's what I'm employed by the team to do and it's expected of me and as I said before I enjoy it.
When you look back at the 2013 season, what do you think?

James Westmoreland:
There's a lot of satisfaction to be honest. I've always wanted to ride for the Buildbase BMW team, we've been in contact for a while and I'm really enjoying being with them. We had a great year, put a BMW in the showdown and also got BMW's first pole position - it's good to bring a new manufacturer into the mix.

Don't get me wrong, there were some rounds where we underperformed but now we've got another year of continuity to build on that and I don't look back on 2013 with any sense of negativity.
Do you feel it was a breakthrough year?

James Westmoreland:
Honestly no. Throughout my career I've always been a rider who steadily improves and that's what I'm after. I finished seventh in 2012 and improved well this year.

I feel I've always had the speed to run at the front so I've just got to do the same again next year to get there. All I'd say is that it was a better season than last year and we just need to improve on that. We need some wins so that we can secure our place in the showdown and be in a better position for those last three rounds.
Did you feel that you gradually got the measure of (team-mate) Jon Kirkham as the season went on?

James Westmoreland:
I had very little testing and track time at the beginning of the season because of the weather and Jon had already ridden the BMW quite a bit, so it took me some while to get going - we really needed a base set up. Things like not getting enough track time at Brands in the first race due to the weather just made that worse.

All those factors resulted in me not having a bike I was that happy with for the first two rounds and that showed a bit. I also had two crashes that weren't my fault. But once we got a bit of momentum going it started to go really well.

Jon had scored some good points early on which really made it look worse, I don't feel that the momentum was with him and then came to me, it was more circumstances. It definitely wasn't nice chasing him at the beginning of the season though because I actually felt that I had the measure of him for the majority of the season.

I've read a few reports that he scored more points than me, but he didn't. The position where we finished was correct even if you were looking at the points in the traditional way without the Showdown.

Jon and me actually had a good relationship but definitely at Donington there was some tension. It was difficult in the hospitality before the race because we both wanted that position so badly. The main thing was that one rider from Buildbase BMW would get into the Showdown and I was absolutely determined that it was going to be me.
How do you think the BMW compares with the other bikes in BSB?

James Westmoreland:
All bikes have their subtle pluses and minuses but all the bikes in BSB roughly do the same job. The important thing is to play to its strengths and set it up well. I feel that they're all pretty similar.

Some people say that the Kawasaki jumps out of corners well but I haven't noticed the BMW having a deficit there. The two bikes are actually pretty similar because they're both newer bikes and are part of the next generation of Superbikes and as road bikes have left the other manufactures behind a bit.

When it comes to racing though, it's different. Everybody said that the Honda was getting old and wasn't the best bike but it still won the championship. Now everybody's jumping on the Kawasaki bandwagon because a couple of Kawasakis have had a good year. But honestly I feel that it's down to the team and the package you've got and I think you could make any of four or five manufacturers competitive. I'm sure that Honda, BMW, Suzuki, Kawasaki, Yamaha, and maybe even Ducati could run at the front given the right team.

When I'm on track I never feel that there's anything faster than my BMW. Also the way I ride and pick the bike up suits it well. I'm pretty confident we've got the legs of anything.

There are maybe some tracks that the bike suits more than others but I'm sure that's the same for any manufacturer. Obviously Donington was a great round for us but Cadwell and Oulton didn't suit us so much, so there areas we are looking to improve in 2014.

The team actually did some testing at Mallory after Cadwell and it may have been the confidence we got from that that made us go well at Donington. I think that if we'd gone straight back to Cadwell after that test we would have been stronger. I'm happy with my riding consistency but we just need to pick our performance up in the areas where we weren't so strong in 2013.
Was your crew new to you?

James Westmoreland:
Yes it was but I knew them from the paddock. I've got a particularly good relationship with my crew chief Lee Jackson.
Doesn't he ride in Superstock 1000?

James Westmoreland:
He's an ex-Superstock champion and was also running in BSB and it's the first time that I've been able to work with such a high level rider as a crew chief.
I thought Lee Jackson finished fourth in Superstock with Buildbase last year?

James Westmoreland:
My Lee Jackson is that Lee Jackson's uncle. Lee Jackson was Superstock champion in 2005 and also had a long association with Hawk Racing before it became Buildbase BMW. He made my transition into the team really easy and his experience on and off track has been really valuable.

His experience means that I can come into the garage and be about to say something and he's already there. He's feeling those bumps coming into that particular corner and knows all the cambers. As good as other crew chiefs are, if you're not talking to someone who's experienced or ridden that particular track in anger it can be difficult to get your meaning across.
How do you stand with the team contractually?

James Westmoreland:
We originally signed a one year deal for 2013 and then extended that for 2014. I really wanted to stay where I was because I'm a rider who steadily improves and I was really happy in 2013. I haven't had that continuity since '07-'08 and even then we had different bikes and tyres.

It's a great team to be with, I've always had a lot of respect for what Stuart and Steve do year in, year out.

We actually started talking halfway through 2011 when I left Yamaha and then kept in touch after that. It was inevitable that we'd eventually do something together. It's nice to be involved with a team that has such passion for the sport and I've always liked the way they go racing.
When you came in after the race at Donington, the first thing you said was 'Am I in?' Did you really not know if you'd made the Showdown?

James Westmoreland:
I really didn't.

In the first race I was gutted because I'd been on the back of the lead group and had only managed to pull a couple of points back on Jon. I felt that I'd ridden better than that so it was all down to the last race.

In the second I put up a good fight and it was also the first time that I'd managed to get in amongst the top guys so that felt nice. I knew that Jon was also putting up a tough fight though so couldn't slack off. I saw P6 on my board and wasn't sure if that was enough.

Jon actually asked me on the cool down lap where I'd finished, I told him and he told me and as I rode the lap I was working it out in my head and thought that we'd drawn on points. That really freaked me out because I didn't know which way it would go. When I realized I was in that was great.
So you're now a frontrunner but not a winner, where can the extra come from?

James Westmoreland:
There are a couple of things really; when you look back on my career in 125s, Supersport and Superbike, I'm not one to go straight in and crash my brains out and then go backwards - I like to work things out. This is why I'm happy to have the second year at BMW because I take my time learning and get stronger and stronger.

Every year in my career I've improved, I like to gradually progress. In my Supersport career you can see that progression and it'll be the same in Superbikes. I've never been one to run before I can walk. We're very close now and with that improvement we should be podium finishers week in week out.

My confidence will also be high. I'm so confident for next year because I don't have to learn the bike, I know it works and that second year plays into how I like to do things.
What are your feelings about having the round in Assen?

James Westmoreland:
Really very mixed. The Assen round opens the series up to a whole new audience and it is very well attended, so from that point of view it's great. For a BSB round to go to a foreign circuit is a little strange though and also we've got some circuits in the UK that we don't use. Anglesey or Rockingham would be relatively easy to fix so that BSB could go there.

At the end of the day though safety is everything so that has to be our first consideration and I would rather travel to Assen where it's much safer than a UK circuit which doesn't have the same standards.

It's nice to go to Assen and it's good for the championship, but my feelings are a bit mixed about it.
When watching racing, which series do you think provides the best entertainment?

James Westmoreland:
To be honest I watch it all but I can't really get excited about it because I'm not in it!

I think that at the moment though that both WSBK and MotoGP need to be improved. WSBK is too spread out and there aren't enough quality teams involved whereas in MotoGP you've only got ten prototype bikes of which only three can win a race and that really isn't that exciting.

I find Supersport great because there are genuinely a number of riders who can win and also it's so closely fought. For me Moto2 is great racing but I would like to see it open to more engine manufactures. It'd be better to have some interest from Yamaha and Kawasaki there as well. I'm a bit old school and like to see competition between bike manufacturers and tyres suppliers.
Where do your ambitions lie?

James Westmoreland:
Obviously my aim at the minute is to win the BSB championship for BMW and I want to stay focused on that at the moment. I really don't want to leave BSB without putting up a proper championship challenge.

Whatever I do though I want to be competitive, I wouldn't want to go to the world championship to ride round in 15th. I've got no interest in that. I want to enjoy myself and being competitive is part of that. It's the whole package that is important.

I want to race in World Superbikes though and the goal always has to be to move onto the world stage when I'm ready.
OK so if I offered you the choice of being in Tom Sykes' position in WSBK or Cal's in MotoGP, on equal pay, which would you choose?

James Westmoreland:
That's difficult. Being in MotoGP is the pinnacle of the sport and we all dream of being there, but Tom's world champion and if I had to choose I think rather be in Tom's position because nothing beats winning.