Hutchy, Mcguin­ness & other ri­vals re­act to Honda’s shock new sign­ing

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week - By Stephen Dav­i­son & Oli Rushby MCN ROAD RAC­ING RE­PORTERS

There was an hi­lar­i­ous but fas­ci­nat­ing ex­change be­tween Guy Martin and John Mcguin­ness dur­ing the an­nounce­ment that Guy would ride the new SP2 Fireblade along­side the 23-times TT win­ner in the Honda Rac­ing squad this sea­son.

The new team-mates were chat­ting when Mcguin­ness asked why Guy had lost a nine-sec­ond lead on his Re­lent­less Suzuki to the Honda rider, in the 2011 Se­nior race.

“What were you do­ing? Think­ing about work­ing on a truck or some­thing?” Mcguin­ness queried. “Yeah, I was think­ing about work,” Guy said sheep­ishly. “I al­ways won­dered that,” Mcguin­ness said, be­fore they moved on to dis­cuss lap times.

“I think I’ve done a 132,” Guy said, vaguely. “You did a 132.398mph on the sec­ond lap of the 2015 Se­nior,” Mcguin­ness ad­mon­ished his new col­league. “You should know that, Guy. You’ve got to con­cen­trate and you could be awe­some.”

For over a decade, the Lin­colnshire ace has of­ten had his ass whipped in the Su­per­bike and Se­nior TT races by a Honda-mounted Mcguin­ness. Fol­low­ing his 2016 sab­bat­i­cal from the event, the 35-year-old has now elected to join his neme­sis on the new Honda. Both men are hop­ing the new model’s ex­tra bhp, cou­pled with Honda’s leg­endary bal­ance of power and han­dling, will help them bridge the gap to Michael Dun­lop and Ian Hutchin­son, who dom­i­nated last year’s TT on S1000RR BMWS in Hawk and Tyco liv­er­ies.

More power and bet­ter han­dling can take you so far but, as Mcguin­ness pointed out, “You still need a good jockey to sit on the thing.”

There’s no ques­tion of Guy’s abil­ity to ‘jockey’ any bike around the chal­leng­ing Moun­tain course. He is the sixth fastest TT rider of all time and has stood on the podium 16 times, some­times in races he might have won with a lit­tle bit of luck. But all too of­ten it has been his lack of at­ten­tion to de­tail or a fail­ure in con­cen­tra­tion that has pre­vented him from reach­ing the top step of that hal­lowed ros­trum. His lap times lack the con­sis­tency of his ri­vals as he strug­gles to main­tain his fo­cus on the job in hand.

Guy ac­cepts this, and seems de­ter­mined to tackle the one chink in his TT ar­mour in or­der to take the vic­tory he has been chas­ing for 12 years. While Guy in­sists that com­plet­ing the Tour Di­vide cy­cle race across Amer­ica last year was the best thing he has ever done, he ad­mit­ted to miss­ing top-level mo­tor­cy­cle rac­ing.

“I re­ally want to ride and to race,

es­pe­cially the South­ern 100 and the Ul­ster Grand Prix,” he ex­plained. “But to do that right, you have to do the TT, and I off­set what I get out of it against what I put in.”

Guy ac­knowl­edged he’s had a half­hearted ap­proach to win­ning a TT in the past.

“For the past five or six years, I get half way through it and I’m look­ing at my watch. I’m rid­ing around the course think­ing about what’s on at work. I’ve al­ways done it as a hobby, I didn’t want to go the ex­tra step and be­come a pro­fes­sional racer,” he said, ex­plain­ing how his re­ver­sal of re­fus­ing to ac­cept pay­ment from a race team or or­gan­is­ers signals a new ap­proach to his TT ca­reer.

“I don’t know if by not tak­ing other teams’ money, it got me out of do­ing things,” he says. “It cer­tainly got me out of do­ing press stuff. I’m not driven by money and that’s why I’ve never taken the TT start money. The other rac­ers all do, but then they’re danc­ing around like per­form­ing mon­keys at the of­fi­cial launch.”

Per­haps it was hav­ing a lot of time to think about his rac­ing dur­ing those long hours ped­alling a push­bike across Amer­ica, but Guy now ap­pears to have ac­cepted some­thing that was ob­vi­ous to any­one who has watched him at the TT over the past dozen years. Put sim­ply, Guy’s pick-and-choose ap­proach to rac­ing and his less than whole-hearted com­mit­ment to the task of rid­ing in the sport’s premier event have pre­vented him from re­al­is­ing the full po­ten­tial of his im­mense tal­ent.

“When I don’t take the money, it’s al­ways a bit like, ‘Oh well, I didn’t win, it doesn’t re­ally mat­ter’,” he re­flected.

Now Guy is tak­ing Honda’s money, he in­sists it signals a new ap­proach: “It shows my com­mit­ment, be­cause if I didn’t it wouldn’t re­ally mat­ter, win, lose or draw. That’s how I deal with ev­ery­thing. I do the best job I can if I’m be­ing paid to do it. It’s ap­ply­ing my truck men­tal­ity to my race job. Now that I’ve taken the money I have to take it se­ri­ously. So I’ve ap­plied my work men­tal­ity to my rac­ing, and hope­fully we can go and win a TT.”

As TT boss Paul Phillips ac­knowl­edged, the highly paid tele­vi­sion pre­sen­ter could do a lot of other things that would earn him plenty more money with much less risk, but Guy ad­mits he has ‘un­fin­ished busi­ness’ at the TT and the op­por­tu­nity to go back on a Honda has given him new mo­ti­va­tion.

“I’ve just al­ways thought that I wouldn’t go back un­less I did some­thing dif­fer­ent,” Guy said. “If I was go­ing back, it was go­ing to be on a dif­fer­ent bike.”

The Honda TT ven­ture is a new chal- lenge for this ec­cen­tric and enig­matic star. Whether or not all this will be enough to see Guy fi­nally achieve his Moun­tain course dream, the pos­si­bil­ity is alive once again, and that will ig­nite ev­ery road race fans’ imag­i­na­tion.

What and where will Guy race?

In or­der to ob­tain his TT li­cence, Guy must have raced in at least six com­pet­i­tive mo­tor­cy­cle races be­fore the event in May, so he’s weigh­ing up his op­tions as to which races these will be.

He’s con­firmed he will race at the North West 200, Ul­ster Grand Prix, South­ern 100 and Irish Na­tional event at Ar­moy, but is also con­sid­er­ing other events such as the Cook­stown 100, and even par­tic­i­pat­ing in Bri­tish cham­pi­onship or clas­sic events to ob­tain his

‘Be­fore this, rac­ing had just been my hobby’ ‘I’d be rid­ing around, think­ing about work’

TT li­cence in good time.

Like at the TT, Guy has never won at the North West 200 and his last visit to the coastal cir­cuit was steeped in con­tro­versy when he crit­i­cised the chi­canes on the 8.9-mile course.

Guy has 11 wins on the world’s fastest race course at Dun­drod but his last ap­pear­ance at the Ul­ster GP in 2015 ended in a crash, which was the main rea­son be­hind Guy’s de­ci­sion to take a year out from rac­ing.

By con­trast he has al­ways de­scribed the South­ern 100 as his favourite meet­ing of the year, dub­bing it a warm-up for the TT. There are also some de­ci­sions to be made on what classes Guy will race in at the TT, and in the months lead­ing up to it. Honda no longer im­port 600cc ma­chines to Bri­tain and have lit­tle in­ter­est in of­fi­cially pro­mot­ing the class at the TT, but if Guy does ride in the smaller-ca­pac­ity class it will def­i­nitely be on a Honda.

Guy told MCN that, should they opt to race in the Su­pers­port class, it is likely to be aboard a CBR600RR pre­pared by Ten Kate, the Dutch firm be­hind Honda’s World Su­per­bike ef­fort.

No de­ci­sion has yet been made on whether he will ride an elec­tric Mu­gen in the TT Zero race. The Mu­gen ma­chine is strongly linked to Honda and Mcguin­ness has won TTS on them.

Some­thing tells us Mcguin­ness isn’t too un­happy about his new team-mate...

Guy’s im­me­di­ately gelled with the team

Guy loves work­ing out how stuff works

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