CAN GUY REALLY WIN TT?
Hutchy, Mcguinness & other rivals react to Honda’s shock new signing
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.
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