2 August 2008
James Whitham - Q&A EXCLUSIVE.
As one of the most popular – and spectacular – riders Great Britain has ever produced, James Whitham certainly has a story to tell.
A former British and World Superbike rider, as well as enjoying a short stint in the 500cc World Championship, Whitham has also battled against – and beaten – Hodgkin's Disease in his life.
But there has been more to James' life than just bikes and illness, so in his new autobiography, 'What a good do!', he reveals a light-hearted look at a life that has experienced ups, downs and everything in between.
Naturally, Crash.net got hold of him for a chat about his book, his current role as a commentator and, of course, the current state of motorbike racing around the world...
What was the idea for producing a biography now?
It wasn't down to us. I had planned to do something when I packed in at the end of 2002, but I couldn't get a publishing house to be interested in it. It would have come at the back of a run of books from Hodgson, Foggy, Reynolds… so they weren't too interested in having another motorcycle racing biography. So it was put on the back burner until a got a phone call from Haynes to do more. They'd had quite a bit of success with the Reynolds one so they wanted to do more and my name came up. So it kick-started an idea of something I had about five years ago.
Did you have fun writing; how long did it take to write?
I haven't just sent a load of stuff to someone who has just re-written it, I have been living on a boat with Mac, so in that respect I was more hands on than most sports people would be on their biographies maybe. I did have a lot of fun though. I had a lot of notes written down of the stories I wanted to be in there. It isn't a book about how I bought this and then I raced this… the racing just binds it together but it is more of a story of what happened in between, the people I've met, the daft stuff, crashing of hire cars… in that respect it isn't a chronological racing book. The problem for us has been keeping down to the 120,000 words they wanted!
How strange is it having your life, which has certainly been an eventful one, displayed out like that?
It was strange at first but I've read it about 15 times because you have to re-read it to make sure they aren't any mistakes and it goes through the legal people too. I kind of know every bit of it now and it's not a shock to me.
What was it like going through the crashes again – are the memories still very real?
I know each crash. What you accept as a rider is that falling off is part of it and you are expected to find the limit – It's part of the job. I can pretty much remember exactly what happened, but looking back you don't have any pain. I have been quite good at brushing off pain and getting back on the bike, so in that respect it didn't hurt too much talking about them. It means I can laugh at them and pull the funny out of them, like the memories of waking up with a crowd around you and having a broken arm.
How difficult was it reliving your illness again through writing about it?
The cancer thing was a bit of a bigger chapter in my life because that thing went on for six to eight months. With a crash you are normally fine within a week, so the cancer thing was a bit harder to go over because a lot happened but even then I'm fine now, so alls well that ends well.
Have you wandered into a book store and see your face staring at you yet?
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