22 August 2014
50-year-old Jeremy McWilliams talks grand prix return!
“If I'm honest who else would consider racing Moto2 at this age!”
Jeremy McWilliams will make a shock one-off grand prix return at next weekend's Silverstone round, where the 50-year-old Ulsterman will race in the Moto2 class aboard the innovative Brough Superior.
The bike features a unique carbon fibre monocoque chassis with an integrated fuel tank, front suspension featuring a single wishbone design and telescopic forks and a carbon swingarm that has been manufactured by Californian based Taylormade Racing.
The team announced last month that they would have a Silverstone wild-card with Luke Mossey, but those plans have since changed leaving the door open for McWilliams.
Speaking exclusively to Crash.net the 2001 250cc Dutch TT race winner - pictured taking part in the Harley Davidson round at the recent Indianapolis MotoGP, where he took a victory from pole - explained how the opportunity came about:
"The reason that I'm doing this is that I got the test on the bike and they asked me nicely if I'd be prepared to help them and get the bike up to speed in a very short space of time and if I was willing to race it. The rider that they had dropped out so it kind of left them in a sticky situation so I agreed to go and test the bike at Mallory Park and I was pleasantly surprised with how we got on.
"I can't say by any means that we're there yet but we've got a good starting point and if we can move forward with that for the test next week and then onto the race at Silverstone we might have something that we'd be able to race with. They've done a lot of racing with this bike in the States so it's not as if it's completely brand new.
"They've been doing some test and development work over there with a rider that I know and he gave some confidence because he's been able to ride and race the bikes in the States and had some degree of success on it. I got onto the bike and I really liked it so it's just gone from there. It's been a whirlwind because we really had to make a decision in a short space of time and I based that decision on having another test next week with the team."
With the clock ticking towards the Silverstone next weekend the team are hoping to be able to arrange one more day of testing in England ahead of their Moto2 bow with Donington Park the preferred location pending availability:
"We're looking at different places for the test," said McWilliams. "We've been in contact with Donington Park and also about using Mallory Park again but that's not ideal. It's better than nothing but we need to test the bike on a Grand Prix type track so somewhere like Cadwell Park or Mallory Park obviously isn't ideal but we've got to take what comes along. I've been in contact with Donington and I'll be speaking with them again in [on Friday] morning."
McWilliams made his grand prix debut in 1993, before the likes of Moto2 front runner Maverick Vinales was even born.
The man who took the last two-stroke premier class pole position, at the 2002 Australian MotoGP, is looking forward to returning to grand prix but is aware of the challenge facing his team as they adapt to the ultra-competitive intermediate class with a brand new motorcycle:
"I've been watching Moto2 closely because I've been doing some work with BT Sport but I wouldn't miss it anyway. It's a very, very competitive class and we're somewhat in at the deep end and we're certainly going to struggle because it's not easy. I won't make any secret about the challenge, we're not out to try and put this bike on the podium because that's completely unrealistic. We are taking the first steps of what is a completely brand new project with a very innovative chassis."
That level of innovation is something that drew McWilliams to the project and his aim is to help the team get onto the grid full time in 2015 by showing the level of innovation that has been lacking in the intermediate class since its inception in 2010.
There have been numerous chassis manufacturers in the class but all now use the same basic approach and philosophy to their designs. This homogeny has been criticised by some within the paddock but with such a level of innovation on the Brough Superior McWilliams admitted that he has faced a steep learning curve learning the bike:
"There are a lot of things on this bike that have never been tested before at this level. It's got a carbon monocoque chassis with a wishbone type front end and telescopic forks. It's a completely new concept for me to even ride. We're not kidding ourselves but we're in it to give it our best shot and I know that the team have given it their best shot and I'll be doing the same."
McWilliams went on to comment that his aim from this weekend is for the team to be able to illustrate to MotoGP organisers that the team deserves to have an opportunity to race full time in the series.
With the deadline for applications for 2015 being the British Grand Prix, Brough Superior will be hoping to showcase their technology. The team have received support from IRTA and Dorna in the form of this weekend's wild-card and a promising race could be pivotal in getting one of the coveted grid slots for next season.
When asked if he saw a role with the team as a development rider, McWilliams commented: "That's not a reason that I'm doing this. I don't have any ulterior motives for this other than to get this project to the next stage when they can move forward in terms of what they can do for next year. It's obvious that they want to be on the grid next year, otherwise they wouldn't be trying to do this.
“So if something came up from that and they need someone over here, they have a test team in America and a test rider, we'd talk about it when the time comes. At the moment though the focus is just on next weekend."
McWilliams will be racing at Silverstone for the first time but he is familiar with the layout of the Northamptonshire circuit having helped the BRDC with the design of the new section of the track added prior to MotoGP's return to Silverstone in 2010. However McWilliams knows that his experience of the track will be lacking compared to the rest of the Moto2 field:
"I helped design the new section of the track and I've ridden some track days on it to see what it was like before on a Ducati and I love the layout. I can't say that I'm up to speed on it because I haven't ridden it in anger, so to speak, other than that track day. There's a learning curve for me at Silverstone because it's not a track that I know that well but I know the way that it goes! For me the bigger work is finding a balance for the chassis that suits the track because it's such a fast and flowing track."
The intermediate class has an upper age limit of 50 so this will likely be the last time that McWilliams will take part in a grand prix weekend.
When asked if he envisioned the MotoGP organisers offering a dispensation for older riders similar to the recently introduced CEV Champion allowances in Moto3, McWilliams laughed:
"I think that the age limit for Moto2 is too high already! If I'm honest who else would consider racing Moto2 at this age? I can't think of many riders that would be able to or even be given a chance to do it. I think that they actually should cut the age limit to around 40.
“I suppose that I was still racing competitively in MotoGP into my 40s so maybe I'm an exception to the norm, but I don't think that there's too many people that would be willing to dip in and out of world championship level at my age."
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