Inspiration: Interview

Damon Hill on the 2019 Triumph prototype Moto2 engine

“It’s beautiful to ride”

Damon Hill and Charley Boorman ride the Moto2 bike

The rain may have prevented the Silverstone MotoGP from going ahead but Triumph managed to get its Moto2 prototype out on track the following day with two major names from the world of motorcycling and motorsport.

Charley Boorman is one of the pioneers of modern adventure riding – and a name synonymous with off-road travel – but he’s also a serious MotoGP and Moto2 fan.

And Damon Hill, a name most will associate solely with cars, also secured an invite to the session. His career began racing bikes and he was supremely talented on the short circuits, before switching to car racing and becoming 1996 Formula 1 World Champion.

FTR caught up with both riders at an exclusive track day at Silverstone’s Stowe circuit.

Charley Boorman invited Damon Hill to ride the Moto2 bike and to promote the Movember Foundation, which Triumph is a kay supporter of.

Damon Hill

What was your first reaction to the bike?

My first reaction was that it makes a beautiful noise, as you can hear as it goes past [Moto2 bike zooming past in background]. It’s absolutely amazing to ride, I mean it’s such a smooth ride and the power delivery is incredible. But, of course, I’m riding it at about 50% capacity of what it’s capable of doing, so it’s too good for me, but I had a great ride on it – it was fun!

What do you think of a British name being back in the top tier of motorcycle racing?

I think it’s a tremendous story. We’ve been wanting for years to see this name back up there, so this is a good first step and it’ll be terrific to showcase British engineering and Triumph’s branding.

Obviously, anytime you enter the motorsport area it’s a brave move because you can risk falling short, but that is the challenge and that’s the challenge everyone faces when they do sport.

How does the bike compare to others you’ve ridden?

Well, I’ve had a limited experience with Triumph bikes – usually it’s the classically-styled bikes that I love to ride. I had a go on a Street Triple, which was nice and frisky. I’ve also ridden a Tiger 800 in Australia with Charley when I went from Melbourne to Sydney. I am so impressed by the quality of the product; in every respect it’s really impressive. I think the styling of the retro bike is fab too.

Are you looking forward to next year’s Moto2 season?

Of course I am, I look forward to anything to do with motorcycle racing. A lot of my time is taken by Formula 1 but I try to see as much as I can of Moto2.

"The power delivery is incredible" – Damon Hill

Charley Boorman

What was your first reaction to the bike?

It’s funny, we’ve been talking about this day for some time – about the possibility of riding the Triumph prototype bike. Being one of the first handful of people to ride it before the 2019 race series starts with 32 new bikes, all with the Triumph engine, is fantastic. I’ve been following Triumph’s development of the engine and the beautiful prototype bike so to finally be able to ride it was incredible.

I’ve been to a lot of track days in the past and been involved in British race teams with superbikes but never had the opportunity to ride a bike like this. It really was an incredible experience.

What do you think of a British name being back in the top tier of motorcycle racing?

I’ve been up here for the MotoGP weekend too and been speaking to a lot of people and they all say the same kind of thing – the Moto2 has had the current 4-cylinder engine for the last eight years and it has reached the end of development, there’s nothing more to come. To breathe new blood into Moto2 and have this new engine brought out that has more technology in it, it’s a better step up to MotoGP. If you go from Moto2 to MotoGP it’s a more linear path. What an adventure Triumph is going to have!

So, you think it’s a good move from Triumph then to get involved?

I think it’s a great move, a bold move, a brave move. I think it’s the right move. It puts them on the world stage and it’ll do good.

Going back to the bike – what was it like to ride?

We were out on the Speed Triple and the Street and these are both a specific type of bike. They’re both very capable. Then to jump on to a Moto2 bike, the first thing you notice is the power and acceleration. It’s extraordinary. Then the braking… for the first couple of laps I kept braking way too early for the corner and then having to speed up again to get to the corner. It takes time to adjust and get used to it.

The gears are set up for racing, therefore the other way round, so you have to think about that as well. There are also 20 other people after you who’d also like to ride it, so you need to be careful not to crash. Luckily, the bike could do 50x more than I ever could so that’s a good thing. It’s an awesome bike. The noise, the engine breaking, the power of the brakes, there is so much grip – far more than I could ever use. It was great to be at Silverstone on the Stowe Circuit, which is really tight and twisty.

Are you looking forward to seeing it in competition?

I’m an avid fan of MotoGP and Moto2 and Moto3. I watch it every year and I have the app on my phone. I travel so much, with the app I can watch it anywhere and it’s funny because Ewan McGregor is a huge MotoGP fan too. Often when we talk the most to each other, it is during the races – texting about how it’s going. I’m a huge fan, I can’t wait to see Triumph at the Moto2 next year. I think Qatar is the first race, so I might see if I can get out there.