10 minutes with... Jeremy McWilliams

He's our best GP rider for a decade or so, he's still going strong in his 40s and he's back in BSB on a 'Blade. Faster than a speeding Stobart 18-wheeler, we probe the prodigal granddaddy of British racing

He's our best GP rider for a decade or so, he's still going strong in his 40s and he's back in BSB on a 'Blade. Faster than a speeding Stobart 18-wheeler, we probe the prodigal granddaddy of British racing

Down to earth with a bump? Is that how you feel about your first day of riding back in BSB, at Knockill in the winter?
It's another day of work. I did have my reservations as I was driving up here, and I could see snow on the sides of the road. But we found out it was warmer than Valencia - so it's not all that bad.

What made you leave MotoGP in the first place? Necessity, or just had enough?
That's the one question I must get asked more than anything. The easiest way to put it in a nutshell is shelf life. It's how long you've got, whether or not a team wants you to ride for them and give you a contract. As we've just learned to our cost a passport is very important - what part of Europe you're from. I'm now in BSB, partly because there was an option with Birdy to ride for him and not go through the rigmarole of having to fight to hold my position in GPs.

How do you feel about your GP career, now that you're looking back on it?
No regrets. I wouldn't do it any other way. I don't think I could have done it any other way. I held on to some lucrative offers all the way through, and I've been pretty lucky to fall on my feet every year with a decent contract. You can only hang on in GPs because you're good enough to be there. You can't be in GPs simply because you want to be there. Somebody else has to want you to ride for them. I've been pretty happy and pretty blessed with a decent career with few enough injuries, really.

Is there no part of you that thinks that maybe you should just knock racing on the head now?
Sometimes you think it would be nice to just sit back and relax and forget about it. But when racing becomes part of your life, what would I do if I wasn't racing? I would be sitting watching it, wishing I was there. I think as long as you are competitive enough and obviously have the ability to be there then you should continue to race. There is a time when I'm going to be slow - old and slow - and that'll be the time to walk away from racing.

Does the age thing seem to be less of a stigma now?
It's a sort of stigma I've had to live with all my racing life. What age are you going to be next year? All the riders that are successful in the world at the minute are experienced riders. Even Rossi has been riding in GPs since he was 16, and he was racing when he was much younger. I don't think it matters at what age you start; you gain experience and get better. If you decide to give up when you are 35 then so be it. You may never get to see your full potential if you do, but that's your prerogative. A lot of people can't really stand the mental anguish that goes along with racing. There's the mental pressure you put yourself under and the physical aspect of it as well, so if you can't keep all those factors in perspective then it would be easier to walk away.

What does racing itself still mean to you?
It means providing a living for my kids. It means having the chance to be successful. The reason you do it is a means to an end. Obviously the reason you race is to win races, to do something on a bike that has never been done before. When I look back there are parts of my career that are set in stone, small pieces of history, and it is quite nice to have that. But you are always chasing that feeling again. So every year you want that feeling back again.

Did you look at Niall Mackenzie's experience when he came back to Britain as a reason to come back yourself?
Niall was one of the all-time greats, and he still is in my book. If he was out there racing right now he would still be competitive. The truth of it is that he had done everything he needed to do and came back and won the BSB championship three times, a lovely way to sign off your career. It would be nice to do the same.

Was there a financial level you had to reach before you committed to coming back to BSB?
It's nice that everybody is interested in what I'm actually gaining out of this experience. But you won't hear it from me. There are reasons for doing everything but the money was not the reason for coming back to BSB.

Was putting you down for a shoe-in to win the BSB championship a little bold on my behalf?
If I had a quid from everybody who has said that, I would not really need to be racing in this championship. That sort of pressure I don't really need. You want to just check how I get on in the first race first before you get down to Ladbrokes and put the house on it. There are riders out there who are going to make it really difficult this year for any one rider to win one race after another. Anybody who thinks I'm going to come into this championship and walk all over it has another think coming. I'd love to say I could do it, but it is going to be quite difficult.

But does part of you relish that challenge, having that much of a target on your back?
Yes, but racing is a challenge, isn't it? And we all love a challenge.