TESTING TIMES OVER
Mcguinness rides his Blade it will be in anger at the North West
John Mcguinness completed his final shakedown session on his new Honda Racing Fireblade at Castle Combe last week before the start of the 2017 roads campaign. With practice for the North West 200 beginning on May 10, the 23-times TT winner is now out of time to make any further development on the new CBR1000RR SP2 before the international season begins.
“Just before I fell off at the last test day here I was happy with where we were with the bike,” the 45-year-old explained. “We had found a good base setting and had something to work off.”
The crash during Honda’s first Castle Combe outing at the begin- ning of April left the Morecambe man unconscious and saw him dislocate his left thumb. Uncharacteristically, it was Mcguinness’s second test crash after he had slipped off during the Spanish session at Monteblanco.
“I’m older now and it takes me longer to bounce back and regain my confidence after a crash,” he said as he unveiled the team’s new 2017 livery with team-mate Guy Martin.
Smooth and linear
With the base setting in place Mcguinness said the team had made significant progress during the second two-day session.
Despite the freezing temperatures at the Wiltshire circuit, progress was made marrying the Honda-supplied kit ignition system to the SP2.
“Everything is about electronics these days and there are a helluva lot of lights and warnings on the new dash that I don’t really understand,” Mcguinness joked.
“The bike is deceptive to ride. The new motor is so smooth and linear it feels easier to ride, but doesn’t always feel fast. But I am going by the stop watch and I was doing 1m 5s laps around here on last year’s bike. I have done that again this year and it didn’t feel like I had my teeth in the fork yokes to do it.
“The engine feels strong and we have lifted the engine’s rpm to allow the bike to make more power higher up the rev range.” Mcguinness explained.
“You want to feel the engine is strong at the very top of it’s output and this motor feels like it is.”
“I can rev this bike harder and we have moved up from 11,500rpm to 14,000rpm. The old bike didn’t like being revved like that but the new engine feels safe doing it.”
Mcguinness admits he has been reluctant to change in the past what he knew was a winning set-up but the new speeds set at last year’s TT by Michael Dunlop and Ian Hutchinson on the Hawk and Tyco BMW S1000RR superbikes have forced a new approach.
“We’ve won races, we’ve done the first 132mph laps but now we have to go faster.”
Another change of direction for the Morecambe man is the team’s shift to Ohlins suspension from the K-tech/ Showa kit he used in the past.
“Öhlins obviously don’t make bad stuff with all the world championships they have won and I could have moved over last season but again I didn’t want to shift from what I knew,” he says.
“The Ohlins crew are fantastic, they listen to what I say and I have a great working relationship with them. We try lots of combinations. We are working our way through everything and I like the balance of the bike now.”
Mcguinness says the improvement of the Honda Racing team’s BSB performances between the first and second rounds at Donington and Brands Hatch has been encouraging for the road race team. New parts and information from Japan have helped too, but Mcguinness and team-mate Guy Martin both admit they would have preferred more time to develop the new bike.
“But I’m staying positive,” insisted Mcguinness. “It’s all about getting more laps really, that’s the main problem. Then again, someone like Bruce Anstey will just jump on his bike and go fast! Nobody really knows how it’s going to be until you get on it and go down Bray Hill for the first time.”
Mcguinness is determined to remain upbeat in spite of the crashes and delays.
“We have tried to get the new bike into the ball park if you like and then fine tune it as we go through practice at the North West and TT,” he said.
“I think that is where we are. You don’t always need the fastest bike out there but you do need the best infrastructure around you and I think that is what we have. We have the Honda team, the Dunlop tyres and the new Fireblade so we won’t be far away.”
Looking good, but will the new Blade cut it at the TT?