After 11 years with Kawasaki, James Hillier has quickly got to grips with his Rich OMG Yamaha at TT 2022 although he admits he’s still building his speed up after just two nights of practice.
A rider who uses practice week for exactly that, the 14-time podium finisher had an encouraging week at the North West 200 and aims to build on that over the next two weeks to get back into the winner’s enclosure.
“Being away for three years hasn’t been an issue and you soon know where you’re going so it’s more a case of just building things up and remembering how to steer the big bikes,” the Hampshire rider told bikesportnews.com.
“The Yamahas, as expected, feel good already and they definitely have the potential so we’re just working our way through stuff at the moment. Although you find out more the quicker you go, we’re focusing on the high speed turning of the R1 at present. Places like Alpine, Quarry Bends and Milntown where you’re going from left to right quickly are always key.”
Monday evening saw Hillier put in three full laps, one on the Superstock and two on the Superbike, before coming to a halt at Greeba due to the red flag after heading back out for a second lap on the Superstock. The latter has given him his fastest lap in the early stages of practice at 125.061mph.
“The course definitely feels bumpier in places, like Sulby, Ginger Hall and the right-left at Tower Bends whilst the resurfaced bits obviously feel smoother although the tarmac feels a bit sketchy at Quarter Bridge. It’s all about getting a good feeling in the early laps with both the bikes and course and then you can start pushing on a bit.
“I think when I’m fully up to speed, the Yamaha will give me a bit of an edge at places like Quarry Bends and up on the Mountain where you’re using the side of the tyre. We all know the bike works well in that situation so I just need more laps over the next few nights to start giving the team more feedback.”
The TT has been Hillier’s main event for more than a decade now but although he’s switched teams, he has some familiar faces still with him with long time crew chief Phil Biggs on the island for practice week. There’s plenty of experience elsewhere in the team too and, like the whole paddock, he’s glad to be back.
“The team’s working well and we’re in a good position whilst there’s a lot of smiling faces around the paddock so it’s nice to be back on the Isle of Man; it just needs to warm up a bit.
“When I set off the line for my first lap, it just felt so good to be back on the Mountain Course although reality soon kicked in after leaving Union Mills and clicking sixth gear up the hill.”