The vast majority of TT racers are all well-liked, approachable characters and lack that rockstar mentality of some of the, erm, rockstars, and James Hillier is one of the most down to earth, straight-talking riders in any paddock. We do love a good natter with him…
The Ringwood rider didn’t have the TT that he and others expected him to have in 2014. A win in the Lightweight class and podiums in 2013 created high hopes for everyone, including himself.
“It wasn’t a bad TT but it wasn’t what we were intending. It could have been a lot worse – we still finished every race and I did a high 130mph lap from a standing start on my own in the first race. But we had a brake issue and that hampered the rest of my race week a little bit because riding round there with dodgy brakes is quite scary. It was always in the back of my mind and I was brake checking everywhere and seeing where the lever would come back to – when the brakes were changing temperature, the lever was moving from just reachable to right back to the ‘bar. I nearly retired from that first race but Guy Martin came past me and I relaxed a bit, and rode with it. I think at the TT, riding around problems is quite a big asset to have. On short circuit racing you can pit and sort the problem or retire. With the TT being once a year, you really have to try and overcome the issues.
“In the Superstock race, we had a tyre spin on the rim. There was a real harsh vibration and I was worried there was a problem with the tyre or a puncture, so I stopped at Ballacrane and inspected it visually for peace of mind. I was 80% sure it was a tyre spinning on the rim but that 20% of doubt had to be checked.”
The Quattro Plant Kawasaki rider has now limited his saddle time to the major International road races, plus the Classic TT. Any interest in going back to short circuit racing?
“Not really. I’d like to ride some European circuits and anything different. The TT has taken the edge off everything really. Busting my balls around Paddock Hill bend at Brands Hatch doesn’t really appeal to me now. It doesn’t tick as many boxes as it used to, but when you first start short circuit racing, it’s amazing. I guess it’s like a drug user, starting off small and work their way up: a bit of cannabis and end up hooked on crack, or an alcoholic starting on Hooch and then living on Special Brew. The TT has kind of ruined things but it makes you appreciate it more.”
At a relatively young 30 years old, Hillier is still a nipper in the road racing world. Short circuit riders tend to have a shorter career and retire sooner.
“I couldn’t say now that I’m going to stop in three years or stop in five years, but I could do the TT this year and think, right, that’s enough. You see Farquhar and Amor making comebacks – they either need the money or they need a fix. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and think I’m not as keen as I used to be to race. The next morning, I’m itching and I cannot wait to get out to the Island and get on the bike.”
44Teeth will be catching up with James for a little 44Tea chat session, just as soon as he’s finished testing in Spain and welcomed the latest mini-Hillier to the world. Got any questions for the TT winner? Fire ‘em over or leave a comment…