When you’re testing top machinery you need top riders. Much as we’d all like to think we could " give it good seeing to " , it takes real talent to push a superbike to the limit. So we got a pair of talented riders in the surprisingly slight forms of Mr James Whitham and Mr Steven Plater to do the hard bit for us.
Whitham has a wealth of superbike experience in both British and World Superbikes, and has spent the last two seasons in World Supersport making near stock Yamaha R6s do things to make us gape. He’s back with the same Yamaha team for next season, but he had a spare few hours in his hectic life so we stole them to make him ride bikes around Cadwell Park. Tough, eh?
Enough of the racing, however. Whitham is also one of the funniest people you’ll ever meet. There’s seemingly no effort that goes into it – he just tells tales in a way that’ll have you in stitches. From crashing Mick Grant’s trials bike while getting parts for his plane welded up ( " Mick’s a right dab-hand with welding " ) to the bloke who knocked on his door at 7am to tell him how golf balls would make him ride faster, Whit always has a tale to entertain.
He’s also about the only person who can make Plater seem subdued. Steve has smiled and laughed his way through a serious crash at Silverstone, through losing his Kawasaki BSB ride when the team had sponsor problems, getting into WSS and finishing his season with a rostrum result at Donington for Virgin Yamaha in BSB.
Plater admits he hasn’t got the breadth of experience Whitham has, but on the other hand he lives virtually on top of Cadwell Park, so he knows his way around the track blindfold. He’s also pretty unusual in having raced two different superbikes – the Kawasaki ZX-7RR and Yamaha R7 – in the same season, so he knows what these bikes are like when you’re elbow to elbow, fighting for a result.