Currently reading: Car versus bike on the Isle of Man TT - the ultimate showdown
We bring together record-breaking Isle of Man TT rider John McGuinness and ex-BTCC touring car champion Gordon Shedden to decide who makes the better petrol heads, car or bike fans?

'Cars versus bikes’ is an argument we come back to at Autocar Towers time and again. We’ve done drag races, track battles, time trials - which you can watch below - but never got into the nitty-gritty details with two racers who’ve lived the subject matter all of their lives. 

So do riders or drivers make bigger petrolheads? What happens when you get record-breaking Isle of Man TT rider John McGuinness and ex-BTCC touring car champion Gordon Shedden together? Do sparks fly? And what are the cars – and bikes – that have fuelled their ambitions and careers?

Read on to find out. And be warned: the metaphors chosen in some of these answers are totally unreconstructed, entirely as uttered – and have fairly adult themes.

What’s your earliest memory of a car or bike?

GS: I didn’t get into cars really until I was maybe 12, and I went to Knockhill to watch touring cars with my dad. There’s no family history with racing. It was just experiencing that race day live that really set the fire going in me.

JM: My dad did a bit of motor crossing when I was little. As soon as I was old enough to stand on my own two feet, he kicked me up the backside and told me to go and ride this little ItalJet mini moto around the industrial estate where we had our bike shop. I don't really remember the first ride. I was maybe three years old on stabilisers; four by the time they took ‘em off. I thought I was Evel Knievel.

What was the car or bike that gave you the bug for racing?

JM: Probably my Kawasaki KR1S. Mum and Dad got divorced when I was a teenager. Me and my brother both got something out of the deal, and I got the KR1S. I won a few club championships on that when I left school. I used to go to college on it and race it at weekends. But my big break came with Paul Bird in 1996.

GS: My first proper car was a Ford Fiesta XR2. But I’ve never owned a racing car. I used to rent them: arrive and drive at races. When I started in 1998, it used to cost about £700 a weekend for the Fiesta championship on the Touring Car circuit, and it was that which got me started in faster stuff.

What was the best racing car or bike you ever drove or rode?

GS: Cars move on so quickly. I’ve gone back and driven old cars and been amazed at how quickly they age. The BTCC Integra I drove in 2006 is the car that really sticks in my mind, though. It felt absolutely mint. You were going to race weekends and just feeling it and sending it straight away. Looking back, it felt like you always had it in the sweet spot.

JM: I started being really strong around the TT at a similar sort of time. I made a lot of progress on a Yamaha; proved I could win on the bigger bikes, I suppose. I had a mental block with the bigger stuff for a while. 


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But the ‘06 Honda Fireblade was the real masterpiece; the one I broke 130mph on. I used to walk towards it, and know it’d be just like the wife; I knew what it was going to do when it was underneath me, if you know what I mean! 

It’s in my house; every time I walk from the front room to the kitchen I walk past it. But to be fair, that's what paid for the house, so…

Do you ride and drive on the road in your spare time?

GS: I’m absolutely not interested in driving – or riding – on the road. I just want to be like Little Miss Daisy! I don’t have fancy cars, I don’t collect road bikes or anything. I do the odd track day on my track bike; that gets the adrenaline going. But I guess that’s because I can have so much fun doing my job on a track. 

When it’s late on a Sunday night at Brands Hatch, I just want to relax, jump in my automatic Honda CRV and drive home.

JM: I’ve got a bit of a flash motor; bought it in 2006 after I did the treble here (at the Isle of Man TT). It’s German and quick, and the engine’s in the back. 

But I blew it up a few years ago. Me and Stuart Easton were driving it back from the Cardiff Speedway Grand Prix and it did a big end on the M5. I was driving it like a bit of a loony, and I ran it low on oil; something I’m not particularly proud of. It wasn’t very intelligent. But being in the industry, I thought: “I’m not going to pay for any oil if I can get it for free.” Then it started rattling, and I thought “Oh no, big mistake.”

But I’ve still got it, and I’ll probably keep it forever. It looks like a million dollars.

I had that McLaren for a bit on test drive, too: that “MP12-dash-forward-slash-your-wrists” car, whatever they call it. It was terrifying. I had it for a week, and I raced my superbike against it. To be honest, I’m glad they came and took it away, ‘cos I’d either have put it through a hedge or ended up in jail. I’m not the greatest driver in the world, but those things just suck you into believing you are.

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What’s the best thing a car or bike has ever won for you beyond a trophy? Or the most it ever cost you?

GS: My first car almost got me thrown out of the house. Me and my dad went and bought an Austin Metro. We paid £900 for it or something like that. I’d just passed my test. We got half a mile from the guy’s house, and I’m mucking about with the stereo while my dad’s stopped in the road up ahead for a roundabout. I went straight into the back of him - literally within three minutes of buying it! I got out of the car and there’s my dad, banging his head against a lamppost…

JM: I’m very lucky that a bike’s never personally cost me much – besides a few injuries. I feel stupid for not buying that £10-worth of oil for the Porsche. That ended up costing a bit! My first car was a blue Honda Civic automatic, which I swapped for a caravan to put on the back of my van. 

I’ve got a few bikes in the garage. When I buy a new bike, the wife doesn’t talk to me for a few days; it’s like having the television on with no sound! But she gets over it.

You can have one more race. Where is it, and what are you driving or riding?

JM: Here. On my Fireblade, in the ‘Senior’. This’ll be where I hang up my leathers.

GS: I’d go back to Bathurst in Australia and race V8 sports cars there. 

Here are our favourite car versus bike challenges from the Autocar archives.

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Range Rover Sport versus speedway world champion

It's Autocar's Matt Prior in a Range Rover Sport against Tai Woffinden, the youngest ever speedway world champion. Who will triumph on the formidable dirt track? 

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McLaren 12C versis Honda Civic BTCC racer versus Honda Fireblade

We return with McLaren's 12C for the ultimate triple test, as the supercar faces off against a 360bhp Honda Civic BTCC racer and a 200bhp Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade, which can reach 60mph in just 2.0 seconds. 

Ariel Atom V8 versus Citroen DS3 Rallycross versus BMW HP4 superbike

What's the fastest way of going in a straight line? We pitch the storming V8-engined Ariel Atom against Citroën's DS3 Rallycross and a storming BMW HP4 superbike to find the all-important answer.

Audi R8 V10 Plus versus Ducati Diavel

Another drag race, this time against Audi's 542bhp R8 V10 Plus and a 162bhp Ducati superbike, which weighs just 234kg.

What's your favourite car versus bike challenge? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

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Add a comment…
mick66 3 June 2014

Bikers are bigger petrol heads.

The vast majority of bikers drive cars..
The only car drivers that ride bikes, are by definition bikers.
In my experience, most bikers have an interest in cars as well as bikes. The two are not mutually exclusive.
Most drivers know little about bikes.
A real petrol heads should have an interest in both...
bomb 3 June 2014


This piece works just fine as a straight interview so why not bill it as just that? Why go all tabloid and make it CARS VS BIKES? Did anyone decide who was the biggest petrol head in the end..?! The suspense is killing me.
Bullfinch 6 June 2016

Both sound like proper humans

- a world away from F1's robots.