Several years ago, I was testing the Buell 1125R in Northern California when I sat down to dinner with a small group that included Erik Buell and Jeremy McWilliams, an incredibly talented, retired MotoGP rider who was helping Buell test a racing version of its new liquid-cooled superbike. I recall straining to understand the English language as spoken through the thick accent of McWilliams, but finding him unimpressed with himself and generally a good guy. Did I mention he is ridiculously talented on a motorcycle?
McWilliams is now working with KTM as a development rider (at 49 years old he is still rail thin). He was chosen by KTM to ride a prototype of its upcoming 1290 Super Duke R at the Goodwood Festival of Speed last week. The bike generated lots of interest. Even Kevin Schwantz stopped by to have a look (see picture).
The Goodwood course is tight and technical aboard such a powerful motorcycle, but McWilliams managed to stretch its legs at least a bit. Take a look at the short video of his efforts at the bottom of this article, but first we re-print an interview with McWilliams published by KTM.
Jeremy McWilliams, 49, is a former MotoGP rider, 250cc race winner and the last man to set pole position on a 500 Grand Prix two-stroke. The Northern Irishman is not slowing down either, having won at the North West 200 this year in the Super Twins class. He’s also a development rider for KTM and was charged with taking the 1290 Super Duke R prototype – The Beast – up the Hill Climb course for the 20th anniversary Goodwood Festival of Speed.
How many times have you visited the Goodwood Festival of Speed?
This is my fourth, I think, and I’m always lucky enough to ride something very interesting here.
Well, there was a BMW development bike, the Ilmoor MotoGP bike I was due to race in 2007 and now this – The Beast!
What makes the Festival of Speed so good?
For me, it’s taking part! They invited me to come a few years back and keep asking me to return. I’m sure there are hundreds and hundreds of riders who would love to come and be here and when they ask you it is hard to say ‘no’. Once you’ve been only then can you understand the hype. The attention to detail is immense and the machines and racers you get to see in one place means it is hard to rival.
Is it the most non-competitive motorcycle event you enjoy then?
Goodwood also host their ‘Revival’, which is extremely competitive on classic machinery. So in comparison, the festival is a bit of fun. For me, its somewhere to hook up with old racing chums. This year, for example, it’s been nearly 10 years since I’ve caught up with Kenny Roberts Senior. But there are the mechanics I used to work with and, of course, the fans. It’s so personable – the Goodwood atmosphere. Nowhere else is like it.
You had a short test at Gloucestershire Airport Thursday on the 1290 Super Duke R prototype and Friday was your first time up the Goodwood hill on it, so what are your impressions of ‘The Beast’?
That it’s well named! It’s everything I expected it to be; accelerates, erm – I can’t swear, so I’ll say ‘really well’! It certainly keeps you focused on a track like this. When you push on, it wheelies in third and fourth gear very easily. It feels very spectacular to ride, I’m not sure what it looks like from trackside but people are coming up to the KTM garage and saying it looks quick. I’m not using full throttle on this circuit – nowhere close! I think at certain circuits this bike could lap quicker than some sports bikes. That’s something you can’t usually say about a naked bike!
What’s the circuit like?
It’s like nothing like you ever ride on a normal day – it’s a hill climb. There are also so many things going on; like what’s on the track in terms of dust, oil and other machines slowing down! I got two red flags in the first outing on Friday. Maybe there was something on the track or they were trying to slow me down! I can’t imagine why, but I was pushing to see what bike is capable of.
What’s your favourite feature of the Prototype?
Wheelie control! That’s the fun thing about this; I can put it vertical and still be in total control without needing to touch rear brake!
So what is your aim for the rest of the Goodwood Festival of Speed Weekend with the bike?
To get a clear run on a clean track! And to soak up the atmosphere of the festival.
What other machines do you want to see here?
I’ve also got a chance to ride KR3 two-stroke triple Grand Prix 500 two-stroke that I put on pole position at Philip island, so I’m excited about that. It’s too good an opportunity, too good to be missed; just to sit on it will bring the memories back.