McWilliams in the thick of KTM’s new WorldSSP300 project

Picture: Fabrizio Porrozzi

Every KTM bike must be ready to race. This is the firm’s philosophy. The new SSP300 class is a step that was missing and the Austrian manufacturer is currently developing the bike that will compete in the WorldSSP300 next year and also in the Italian Championship CIV, where the SSP300 competes with similar rules.

KTM has created a new department called Customer Racing Division, which follows the RC390 Cup and provides the racing kit to compete in SSP300. This is how important this programme is in terms of marketing and sales, and they are using a fast-but-wise head in shape of Jeremy McWilliams to assist.

The SSP300 class perfectly embodies KTM’s philosophy “Ready to Race” and the Austrian Manufacturer is developing a racing kit so that “every privateer can transform a standard machine into a winning bike to be successful in SSP300” as Wolfgang Felber, Head of Technical Development, states.

The ambassadors of this program on track are two veterans and a young talent: legend McWilliams, Stefano Cordara – an experienced test rider – and 15-year-old Omar Bonoli, who is competing in the KTM Red Bull Rookies Cup.

We chat with Jeremy McWilliams about the KTM project, his involvement as talent scout and mentor to raise young talents in the British Talent Cup.

How did you get involved in this project?
“My involvement started with the launch of the RC390 in the UK three years ago. I did some workshops with the young guys in the UK and mentored the riders in Silverstone in occasion of the world final of the RC 390 CUP, and so on. This year the RC 390 cup was launched in Sepang, Malaysia. I was there and it’s a great success with young riders coming from Malaysia, India, Indonesia, Japan and Thailand involved. It’s an important program for KTM, that has created a new Department, the Customer Racing Division.”

How is the development going?
“The base is the bike that is competing in the RC390 CUP. The rule states to use a standard engine and here we have a complete stock engine. We are currently working with WP suspension and Nova slipper clutch to find the best set up, the rest is standard. Regarding the engine, we feel we will be competitive against the twin-cylinder bike we will compete against next year, but it’s too early to speak as we haven’t had yet a direct confrontation.”

How do you feel to return competing at Mugello?
“Mugello is spectacular and demanding, but riding a small bike is even more challenging than a big bike. I was tweeting with Troy Bayliss about this, this morning. It’s actually more difficult, zero tolerance for mistakes. It’s a completely different way of riding. For me it’s like learning to ride again, because I never rode trough the Mugello turns of Arrabbiata one and two with open throttle in fifth gear! I rode this bike also at Sepang, which is a completely different layout.”

What is target of this race/developing test at Mugello?
“We need to define a base setting. We aim at having a bike available for any rider who wants to compete in the World SSP300.”

Do you think the SSP300 is a good entry-level class?
“Yes, and it is also exciting to watch. It’s a good idea from Dorna as a stepping stone was missing for those who wanted to come in WorldSBK. I think it will be even more competitive with more manufacturers and KTM wants to be part of it.”

What about the price?
“It hasn’t be defined yet but the SS300 will be economically accessible so that young riders can compete on equal machinery with an affordable budget. It’s the same philosophy of the RC 390 Cup. What we are working on in these days is to make the bike as more competitive as possible, but remaining a standard bike with a racing kit.”

When will the bike debut on an international level?
“We hope to take part as a wildcard in Jerez at the round of the WorldSBK on October 20-22. In that occasion there will be also the world final of the RC390 CUP with the riders competing from nine different countries. It is planned as a support event in the same weekend.”

Do you think SSP300 will become the new Moto3 with WorldSBK reproducing a similar formula as in MotoGP?
“I think Dorna will introduce new classes. They are continually finding new way of working with Manufacturers and SSP300 fits very well, because this is a huge market for KTM and it’s important to showcase our best bike. Regarding the other classes, we hear lots of rumours that the SSP600 will stop, maybe also the STK1000, but I don’t know how is the situation.”

What do you think about the proposal for the WorldSBK class to adopt the rules of the Superstock 1000 and the introduction of the single ECU?
“It’s a good idea. I totally agree with Carmelo (Ezpeleta) that Superbike has to be more stock and more even overall. That’s the way we need to move in WorldSBK. This is what we are doing also here. The solution of the reverse grid has not really worked.”

You are also involved in the British Talent CUP. The entries are closed and the selection process will be held in Silverstone in occasion of the MotoGP week at the end of August. How do you see the state of health of the young British riders?
“In the past we always had strong British riders. At the moment there are a lot of new riders coming up. So Dorna’ s British Talent Cup is welcomed in the in Britain and Ireland. We hope to see the next wave of riders. There are lots of talent riders in the British championship but they tend to stay in UK, because it’s already a very well organized and supported championship. We need to have some young riders making the next step and moving on an international level. That’s why the British Talent Cup is really welcomed.”

What is your role in the British Talent Cup?
“I’m collaborating with Alberto Puig as talent scout and I keep an eye on other championships, small-gear championships to motocross, I stay in touch with the organizers and so on”.

How do you see Sam Lowes in his rookie year in MotoGP?
“Sam is riding well. He is doing an adequate job. We know he is fast from he did in Moto2 but he needs some time to adapt. I think he hasn’t had the best of support from Aprilia. At the moment we hear all kind of rumours and you cannot ride and be focused if you know that you will be replaced next year.”

What about McPhee? He is progressing a lot this year.
“I work with John closely. He is racing with the British Talent Team. He is very good in race mode. His race pace is phenomenal. He is improving as he is still struggling a bit in qualifying”.”

Finally how do you see Bradley Smith in KTM?
“Bradley had an unlucky year with some injuries. Regarding his results, we need to take in mind that he is developing a new bike this year.”

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