Ilmor have finally made up their minds about who will be riding the Ilmor SRT X3 next year. On Monday, they announced that Jeremy McWilliams (42) and Andrew Pitt (30) will be joining the team for 2007. The line-up is as expected, after McWilliams and Pitt spent a lot of time testing the bike at Valencia and Jerez. However, it is a little surprising for someone of McWilliams' age to be given the ride. Most riders are a long way past their sell by date by the time they hit 40, and McWilliams is 42. The reason that Ilmor give is McWilliams' experience, a fact which cannot be denied. However, the last MotoGP project that McWilliams was involved in was the ill-fated Proton V5, developed by Team KR, which was just never competitive, and blew itself apart with some regularity. Andrew Pitt, on the other hand, makes a little more sense. At 30, he is much younger than McWilliams (though still one of the older riders in the paddock), and spent a year developing the Kawasaki when they first returned to MotoGP. He has shown that he can be competitive, after putting in a good season in World Superbikes aboard the Yamaha YZF-R1, even winning a race.
This leaves poor Garry McCoy out in the cold. The press release does not mention him, but reading between the lines, it seems that Ilmor believed that he did not have the development skills which they require. I'm sure it won't come as a huge shock, however, as McCoy was not involved in the Jerez tests at all.
The full text of the press release is shown below:
Northampton 18.12.06: Ending months of speculation, Mario Illien, Ilmor GP Team Owner today announced that Jeremy McWilliams and Andrew Pitt will make up the Ilmor 2007 MotoGP line up.
Despite his crash in Jerez back in November where he suffered a fractured left femur McWilliams is well on the way to recovery, both he and ex-Kawasaki rider Pitt spent time today at the teams engineering facility in Northampton discussing plans for 2007.
Both riders are familiar with the Ilmor XÂ³ SRT having tested the bike in Jerez and in Valencia after the final of the MotoGP World Championship. The riders were selected for not only their proven riding skills but the invaluable experience they will bring to the team.
At 42 Irishman McWilliams is one of the sports most experienced riders and his team mate 30 year old Australian Pitt has clocked up a decent amount of miles with Kawasaki back in 2004. At this early stage in the XÂ³'s development, the team believe it's essential to have riders who have the ability to assist with perfecting the ultimate race set-up of the bike.
Jeremy McWilliams: "I'm very pleased to be part of a new team and obviously I'm delighted to be back in MotoGP. Now, with Mario and Ilmor it's a very different situation - having spent some time with him and the team his passion and dedication is evident everywhere, especially at the facility in Northampton - you can see that he's not a man who's used to coming second. He takes his racing incredibly seriously, he's a legend and whilst I know his expectations in terms of hard work are high he's realistic about what we can achieve over the next year.
"We have a brand new bike and very little testing time - I think we have a very good product to work with but there is a lot of developing that needs to be done. It's going to take time and it's going to be hard but I'm really looking forward to it, at the end of the day, that's what MotoGP is all about - it's hard work - if it was easy, everyone would be doing it!"
Andrew Pitt: "I'm delighted that everything is confirmed now - I can't wait to get back out on the track - I really feel like I wasn't able to reach my potential before and now I'm lucky enough to get another opportunity with a new team on what promises to be a great bike. You only need to take a quick look around the Ilmor headquarters to see how seriously these guys take things, it dwarves everything I've ever seen before."
Mario Illien, Team Owner: "As a fledgling team, the main reason behind signing McWilliams and Pitt was for their skills in further developing the overall bike package and making us more competitive as a team. Both riders come well equipped with a huge amount of experience to bring to the team as we start out. I've said since the beginning of this project that we are on a steep learning curve and I believe that McWilliams and Pitt will really help us begin to make our mark on the grid."
Steve Miller, Ilmor, Managing Director: "Both riders are team players which is vital to us as a relatively new team - everyone needs to work together if we are to achieve our goals. I'm glad that they're both on board and I'm looking forward to working with them - I think they both realise the potential of the project and they're very keen to get back out there and find some more speed from the bike."