During the 1990s and into the early 2000s there was just one British name that was consistently on the Grand Prix scene and that was Jeremy McWilliams. With a GP career spanning 14 years and a 250cc win at Assen under his belt McWilliams would be more than justified in hanging up his leathers but that isn't the case.
Speaking exclusively to Crash.net
at the Silverstone Circuit launch McWilliams explained he'd just had a call asking him to race at Oulton Park BSB. “These things happen to me and I'm not sure how it comes about,” said an amused McWilliams. “I'm well into my forties now and really these opportunities shouldn't be presenting themselves so often, but maybe I'm a little bit silly as I don't always turn them down. I find it difficult to turn these things down. That is how I came to race in the German Superbike Championship last year. It was an opportunity to ride a factory KTM and they wanted to develop the Dunlop tyre for the bike as the team are running them this year. So I took that opportunity, I only dipped in for two rounds which is quite difficult as it was the end of the season and most of the riders and teams were up to speed. I enjoyed it while I did and now another opportunity has arisen this year with Warr's Harley Davidson in London and I'll be racing at Oulton Park with them.”
He picked up pole position and the Henderson Harley-Davidson XR1200 Trophy win during his outing at Oulton Park but with a GP pedigree it is only to be expected. He is passing his racing knowledge on to younger riders by mentoring Ulster's Josh Elliot and Ian Lowry. Elliot is racing in the European Superstock 600 Championship and has scored a top ten finish already in his debut season. Lowry has stepped into the breach which was left in the Motorpoint Yamaha team when Neil Hodgson was forced to retire through injury. Although he is still due to contest the CEV Spanish Moto2 Championship.
McWilliams said: “It's more of a mentor role I have with Ian Lowry; I'm running him in the CEV Championship in Spain in Moto2. The carrot for Ian would be that he gets a wild card entry to Moto2 at GP level, obviously Silverstone is my priority. That is yet to happen but hopefully we can do something with it. As for Josh he is a star of the future and hopefully we can develop him. He is a fellow Ulsterman and I think he will go places with the right coaxing or mentoring, whatever you want to call it. I've been working with him on a one-to-one basis at the track when he raced in the German Championship. This year I'm not so involved as we are going in different directions. They are doing European Superstock while I'm trying to keep the Moto2 project going with Ian Lowry and the Spanish Championship.”
When building a new race track it is always advisable to talk to riders and drivers for input, this is exactly what Silverstone did and McWilliams was the person put forward to assist. “I was honoured to be asked to come and look at the new development before they actually came up with the current layout,” he said. “It was nice to work with Populous and the BRDC in trying to determine what riders need out of the circuit as well as four wheel drivers. They come up with a mix to suit both - I think they have done a sterling job.”
He is also thrilled at Silverstone achieving what he called the Triple Crown in bike terms, the British Superbikes, World Superbikes and MotoGP all at the same venue. He said: “It is very special and Silverstone is the centre of motorsport excellence. Where else are you going to put these events, it's got the best access; it's got the longest association with motorsport especially with the Grand Prix. Back in its hay day it saw Sheene and Roberts on track. I think it is fitting that the GP has come back to such a fantastic venue.”
As part of the Silverstone track launch McWilliams got to take part in a legends line-up which saw Damon Hill, Jackie Stuart, David Coulthard and Mark Webber standing shoulder to shoulder with the hardy Ulsterman. He admitted to Crash.net
that is really was a special moment.
McWilliams said: “It's quite an honour isn't it standing there with some of the great names. I think that it is lovely that the circuit has invited so many from each side of the sport, four wheel and two wheel to equally represent our chosen sports. I think that is a sign of a new era for Silverstone and something that they feel necessary to include the two wheeled side of the sport. With everything now being here like you said, MotoGP, World and British Superbike I think that is pretty special too. Long may that continue and well done to them for taking all the comments that we made and taking them on board.”
MotoGP returns to Silverstone on the 18th – 20th June. No doubt McWilliams will be watching with interest.