James Whitham in his own words

Published: 05 August 2001

MCN: In a recent VIP chat Chris Walker said that his ideal team-mate would be you. Who would your ideal team mate?

JamesWhitham: Er, probably Chris. The thing is, I like to be in a team where I can get on with people. Somebody like Chris or Steve Plater, just somebody I get on with, and to be honest, most people in racing I get on with cos they've got a similar background but Chris would be a good one. I’d say Foggy, but it doesn't seem to get on with his team-mates and I wouldn't want to fall out with him.

MCN: Great commentary on Eurosport, much better than Foggy! Will we be hearing more from you, taking over from Murray Walker perhaps?

JamesWhitham: Yeah, I’d love to do more, I’d love to get further. I don't think I'd be any good at commentating on anything I wouldn't be passionate and interested in but bike commentating, when your co-commentator is somebody good, is quite enjoyable actually.

MCN: Can we expect to see you back on a Superbike soon ? You must have had some decent offers come your way in the last couple of years.

JamesWhitham: Probably not at World Level, but at British Championship level, it's a distinct possibility and I’d say a probability, rather than a possibility.

MCN: At Brands, there were reports of an alleged 'bust-up' between you and Fabian Foret, is there any truth in these reports?

JamesWhitham Yeah, there is a little bit. We had a bit of a coming together on the track. It was six of one and half a dozen of the other and he gesticulated basically, and I don't like people doing that. So I pulled up next to him and we had a squaring up session, basically handbags at ten paces. I wasn't very proud of it and it wasn't very professional but we did kiss and make up two hours later

MCN: How tyre dependent do you think the Supersport class is? Is it a case of only the teams with the best tyres being bale to win the races?

JamesWhitham: Very. It's getting more so in Supersport. It's very dependent, although perhaps not as much as it was a few years ago in Grand Prix. Then only the four or five riders had the tyres that could win. There isn't any reason why the average privateer team couldn't get the same things but the factory teams have more backing and more chance for testing etc. Plus, if there isn't enough in the truck then, obviously not everyone is going to get them, but obviously a huge factor still.

MCN: Jamie, I am a 17 boy who lives on the island of Jersey C.I. I ride a 125 and love racing. How can I go about starting in a career when I live over in Jersey Channel Islands and my family have limited funds? P.S. Pop across and see the sight's

JamesWhitham: Actually a friend of mine and a friend share a small plane … not a Lear jet or anything and Jersey is somewhere that's on the list to visit. Obviously it'll cause more problems starting off if you don't live near a circuit, but when I started, the main thing was that we didn't think about it as going into a career. We didn't sit in a career meeting at school and say we wanted to be bike racers. It's best to have something to fall back on like a trade being a plumber or something to have something to fall back on. There are guys walking around in the street who are better than me, who never were able to make it for one reason or another. The important thing is to enjoy it, if you don't enjoy it, then you'll never stick at it long enough to make it. Not that i don't enjoy it now, but my best memories were when I was starting off, and we were lucky if the transit van made it to a meeting, let alone the racing went well and we could start getting a couple of small trophies. The best thing is just to get on with it, enjoy it, and I wish ya good luck

MCN: What happens to the left over bits of R6 after you crash?

JamesWhitham: Depends. It's very expensive gear on the bike, as regards the fairings, brackets etc fairly trick stuff and if they can use it again, they will, within reason. If it is seriously bent, it will get thrown away and if it actually goes in the skip trophy hunters grab it straight away and I find it turns up at a signing a year later. But with Suzuki and Modenas factory teams everything got taken back to the factory because it was a bit secret, and they last thing they wanted was for it to end up on a road bike like a GSXR, because if the guy has an accident they could get sued.

MCN: Jamie, do you have insights or opinion on Chris Walker getting the boot recently?

JamesWhitham: Yeah, it's annoying from a rider's point of view that someone can get sacked on a two year contract. He hasn't had the best of it, and being injured. I know how tough it is from the Modenas if he'd been winning then it would have been fine but he needed to set out and take the two years to get up there and when people say he wasn't good enough. There are only a couple of gods out on GP circuit people like Rossi and Biaggi. There's no reason why he couldn't have worked his way up to the front and once he's back racing there's no reason why he can't show them what a mistake they've made

MCN: What are your views on Fogarty's comments? Do you think he should step back a little and be careful what he says?

JamesWhitham: Carl's comments surprise me sometimes. I know him better as a person now, cos I don't see him as a racer any more. I think he needs to be careful when it might detract from his achievements by saying something a little daft. He has his opinions and everyone is entitled to their own opinions. I don’t think he shouldn't say what everyone wants him to, but I think he's in a position now when he still thinks he can say what he likes, and people like him to be opinionated, in a Jeremy Clarkson kind of way. When he comes out for a meal with Andrea and me, what he says is completely different anyway!

MCN: What's your biggest regret - perhaps an offer of a ride you didn't take?

JamesWhitham: My biggest regret, possibly, is ... and I’m really happy with the Belgarda team, and we could have done far better and maybe won the championship but my biggest regret is not having another year on the Modenas and got some results for them. I really enjoyed working with Kenny Roberts and the team but it was getting a bit much with Andrea carrying the bags all the time because I was crippled I don't regret much, because you end up bitter and twisted. I fully intend to become it one day, but not yet

MCN: Foggy once said that you didn’t have the speed to be in Superbikes, is he still your friend?

JamesWhitham: Yeah. Over the years he said some stuff that tested our friendship but he thinks what he thinks and he actually said he was misquoted on that anyway. He never said it to my face and he doesn't tend to talk behind my back. Foggy always went on the tack of being nasty, because he needed to be nasty to win. Then again Robbie Williams was talentless twat in Take That but now he's the most famous for being a normal bloke so you don't have to be a twat really.

MCN: Tell us about that nasty scar on your right breast then Jamie!

JamseWhitham: ahhh. Left breast actually but a nasty business. I’d won the race at Phillip Island last year. It were a real surprise. I only won it because it rained. So we went out to celebrate with my team and three or four others, and I got a little bit squiffy. So I got up and did my party trick which was to light a couple of glasses of sambuca and then putting it out on my body by starving it of oxygen. so now I’ve now got a nice smiley face around my nipple It looks like a gang initiation thing but it isn't. I just smelt the burning flesh and looked down and thought "Is that my tit", because I didn't even feel it!

MCN: My mum says that after recovering from the cancer that you ride like your unbreakable, What do you think?

JamesWhitham: Yeah, but to be honest, the cancer thing I`ve forgotten all about until I go for a scan and check up once a year. I don't think about it but it did help me in a way cos after doing stuff for ten years that was considered dangerous, to be threatened by a disease it's a bit of a shock, and you don't really understand it. You break your arm or collar bone and you understand that, but with cancer, it's a bit beyond me

MCN: Tell us about the time you filled your pants on the grid?

JamesWhitham: Yeah, I shit myself basically that was it. I went to do a little fart and squeezed a bit out but to be honest it felt worse than it was it felt like a bucket, but it was only a little bit

MCN: What do you think about the 1000cc rules for Superbikes?

JamesWhitham: Fantastic! About time and it had to happen they should have seen it coming, because the Japanese don't sell a lot of 750cc bikes and with Supersport type rules it would be a huge class. It'd be better than the GP's with the gaps between four strokes and two strokes and you look at the times the Superstocks are doing and they aren't far off the Superbikes

MCN: would you go back to World Superbikes if the chance came up

JamesWhitham: Er yeah, I would if the right deal came along but at my time of life. It’d be unlikely to be on a bike that would do me justice really and I’m happy what I’m doing. It's nice to be on a bike where you're sat on the grid and you can think, "yeah, I can win this race" and I’ve had that for two years and I didn't get that much with a superbike.

MCN: Why do you think your qualifying has been so good recently?

JamesWhitham: I dunno, but I tell ya what i don't like it! Front rows are crap! I'm not used to it. It's hideous! I feel exposed but to be honest I think it's because Dunlop have come up with cracking tyres and it's no good being the fastest in the race when you're in 16th. It had to happen and I had to put a lot more effort in this season but I have to admit I was a little shocked at Brands, cos I didn't think I had that lap in me but what can ya do, it were brilliant!

MCN: What would your dream ride be? 2002 GP Bikes or 2002 World Superbikes, or something completely different?

JamesWhitham: That Grand Prix thing to be honest, I’d love to be back on the Modenas but I’m 35 and going nowhere at the moment. Actually I’d like to stay where I am and I’d like to win a championship for them to put a lid on my two years with the team to be honest.

MCN: How do you think four-stroke GP rules will affect WSB?

JamesWhitham: It'll finish it off. There isn't room for two similar classes and if the factories put masses of cash into four strokes, it'll only go into one class. Unless WSB switches to 1000s, and more Superstock like, so everyone can afford it a little more, WSB will be finished. We see a strange view, cos we see 120,000 at Brands, and forget that in the rest of the world it’s the other way round.

MCN: What chance would a Ducati have of keeping up with the likes of a GSX-R 1000 though?

JamesWhitham: I dunno. I mean, it's gotta be a better way than now, cos noone can keep up with the Ducatis. The races were set up to be for four-cylinder Japanese bikes and now it's turned into twin cylinders and if it's been their series so far, why can't it be someone elses turn in the future. Unless you're on a Ducati, and they want you to be competitive, you couldn't get on the pace so get 'em on whacking great four bangers as long as I don't have to do it! Karl Harris could be world champ. Just let the tyres down so it wobbled everywhere!

MCN: Who's achievements do you rate higher, Doohans or Foggys?

JamesWhitham: Good question that. Errrr. Possibly Doohans, but it's really difficult to compare across the classes and they were never in a position to have a direct race against each other. Doohan managed to come back from horrific injuries and be the same as before and it seems a bit silly for people, even Carl, to say that one was better than the other. You'd never know. It's like saying Hailwood was better than Surtees but if they didn't race on the same sort of tackle you'd never know. Doohan dominated a little bit more comprehensively than Carl did, but Doohan also came back from horrific injuries in the most single-minded ways. Carl probably could have done the same thing, but basically they both did what they did and you can't take it away from them. No doubt Carl would say he could have kicked Doohan's ass, but you expect that from him!

MCN: Rossi or Biaggi?

JamesWhitham: Rossi. Bleeding hell! All this trouble between them is only because for a few years now Biaggi was the man in Italy, and he's a national hero other there and Rossi is stealing his thunder a little bit. I like the way Rossi works, he just gets on and rides, and doesn't give a shit. Plus stuff like Japan, where Biaggi had him on the grass…I just thought "oh dear" and the fact Rossi waved in a nice way when he came past Biaggi. I liked that but I’d hate to really comment cos I don't know either of them really. But Rossi lives in London so he's basically a Brit. They must have some taxes in Italy if he's come to London to escape it!

MCN: Blue R6s are faster than red ones, aren't they?

JamesWhitham: Oh yes. It went like stink, and we wanted blue for the rest of the year To be fair, not that there's anything wrong with the normal colour scheme but the Blue one went down so well it just looked so different and people gave us such positive feedback. But, yeah, definitely faster.

MCN: What's your favourite song you like to kick out with the Po Boys?

JamesWhitham: It's one we're just learning at the minute, cos it’s always nice when you are learning a new song. It's one of a couple of Who numbers, probably Pinball Wizard. It's funny because there are a few bands I didn't like as a teenager, like the Jam that i really like now and I think are great. I talked my self out of liking them when I was younger, cos they were into scooters and I actually like it all now.

MCN: Are u going to come to Knockhill this weekend to see Niall Mackenzie back on his home track?

JamesWhitham: Dunno. It's actually a possibility. If the whether is good I’ll fly up but I’m not driving. But I really hope he does well, not necessarily win it, but do well and he's really good round there. I remember in 96, he kicked my ass good and proper. But I think for this weekend it's gotta be Hizzy. Championship wise it'd be nice to see John win it, this weekend, to make the championship come alive again But he is good round there is Hizzy.