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Jeremy McWilliams Lets the KTM Beast Stretch Its Legs at Goodwood (with video)


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.

Like what?

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.


  1. Mars says:

    Vibration. Bzzzz. Bolts falling out. Oil changes – two hours a piece, once a week. No thanks. Hooligan bikes – they’re supposed to be cheap.

  2. sliphorn says:

    Is that Kevin Schwantz in the bottom photo?

  3. stinkywheels says:

    Too bad I’m outta money and room. That makes my 1125Cr seem soooo tame. Gotta love hooligan bikes and this is the new king! I don’t know where the others get the overweight drivel, I don’t see many places to trim weight except the singleside swingarm. Great to see a rider that still appreciates that people and manufacturers want to see him ride. I’m envious.

  4. Hot Dog says:

    My wife would be so pissed if I brought that thing home…oh wait, I don’t have a wife and I’d probably not have a driver’s license either with this beast.

  5. Tim says:

    Love the paint job on the wheels.

  6. Provologna says:

    Not being critical just for the sake of it, just my view. I put this in the category of a road version of BMW hiring Jimmy Lewis (sp?) catching 6′ of air on a 600 lb R1200GS.

    Sure, a couple people on earth can go fast on such overweight and overpowered machines, but it the sum total meaning to the average mortal consumer is only image and perception. There is no realistic translation to riding enjoyment.

    I admire McWilliams as a human being and of course for incredible riding talent. In this particular role he is KTM’s paid marketing employee. Nothing wrong with that, it’s just what it is.

    • hipsabad says:

      Agreed. Emperor’s new clothes.

    • Stratkat says:

      overweight? underpowered??? we arent talking a Harley here!
      why wouldnt you hire someone capable of taking a machine to the limits.
      so what if mortals cannot gotta love KTM for putting it out there!

      • FAST2WIN says:

        Overweight and overpowered, is what the statement was. That being said if those are the standard to which you measure, the same could be said for almost all sportbikes.

        • Stratkat says:

          where are you comming up with this overweight thing?

          • Provologna says:

            Several things provoke my descriptor “overweight and overpowered.”

            Did you see the wallowing under throttle with the bike almost vertical, with barely any lean angle? Possibly it was just setup badly for this track and rider, maybe my description applies, hard to know. Because of the obvious wallowing this video reflects very badly on the bike and KTMs judgement. This video proves KTM can pay good money for a pro rider resulting in only bad video.

            I saw nothing that reminded me of fun or pleasure in that video.

            No proof of the following, but for fun I’d bet a steak dinner with wine and desert: Ducati’s Streetfighter, maybe even more so the smaller version, would soundly trump this KTM 1(if the video accurately reflects the KTM’s performance).

            In fact, I’d not be surprised if an equally prepped 600cc race replica would trounce this KTM. The bike obviously (to me) struggled hugely during lean angle. Frankly, I thought McWilliams was a little scared of it (not just the power, but the weight combined with power).

            I’m only a hobbyist, not an industry shill, and happily rag on Ducati at times, even here. But I’d take the Streetfighter 848cc over this KTM anyday. Reciprocating mass and gyroscopic effect of a larger motor highly impacts handling, and only in a negative way.

            All the above equals “overweight and overpowered.”

            The descriptor is not comparing this bike to other street bikes of similar genre. By that yardstick it might not be overweight and overpowered.

          • Scotty says:

            It’s Lord March’s driveway – not a racetrack. So its not really possible to set a bike up very well for it. The runs up the hill are more exhibition than speed test. So I would wait before condemning the bike.

          • Jeremy in TX says:

            The bike behaves exactly like any other bike I’ve seen with a rider on board capable of keeping it at 100% of its limit 100% of the time. I get what you are saying, though. It takes a lot of work to ride beastly machines like this to their potential and a lot of skill to survive it. I crave bikes like this, but I am not equipped with the skill or confidence of youth necessary to get anything more than traffic school out of them.

          • Dave says:

            Provologna, without same day, equally ridden comparison video of other bikes you have no point of reference for how this bike performs. For all you know, in this video you’ve just witnessed the most perfectly ridden, best time that has ever been achieved on that piece of road.

          • John says:

            Modern Toys are fun, yet they are way beyond mere mortals. I’ll stick to my aircooled ducks. Plenty of streetable power where one can use it on a daily basis. Last time I checked, my leathers did not have “The Doctor” spelled across the back.

    • DaveA says:

      Please tell me more about how the Super Duke R prototype is overweight and underpowered.

  7. Brent Meeker says:

    Having Jeremy McWilliams and traction control on the same motorcycle is a sin.

  8. sl says:

    I was once asked, what do money and horsepower have in common? Answer you can never have too much, but instead enough. I think it is nice there are people out there challenging this concept.

  9. Ziggy says:

    Thank God someone has the indecency to make bikes like this!

  10. Scotty says:

    Always liked Jezza and hes a bloke full of talent and modest. The bike is not exactly my thing, but I reckon it will be a hit.

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