'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.
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.