GUY’S CLASSIC COMEBACK
Guy Martin goes old-school racing onboard 1100cc Team Classic Suzuki Katana
Guy Martin put his TT nightmare firmly behind him last weekend as he helped Team Classic Suzuki to their best ever result at the Spa fourhour endurance race in Belgium.
Riding a hand-built 1982 Katana 1100, Guy and team-mate Peter Boast came home in seventh place - an impressive result considering Guy’s first sight of Spa was a trackday the Thursday before the race, Boast had never ridden the Katana before and neither of them had experience of the tyres!
It was Guy’s first race since his calamitous TT fortnight, where he had a terrifying crash on the new Honda Fireblade and opted not to race in the Senior. Fortunately for Guy, his Honda contract allows him to race any classic, so he was able to take up Suzuki’s offer.
Speaking to MCN after riding the final 40-minute session and sealing a great result for Team Classic Suzuki, Guy was fizzing with his trademark enthusiasm, despite atrociously wet conditions that left deep puddles on parts of the track: “I’ve had a great night. It’s back to riding bikes without any bullshit. It’s not that I haven’t enjoyed what’s gone on this year, but it’s been a testing time with the Honda job.”
It had looked as though Boast would bring the bike home, but a rival team suffered a big crash and left oil on the track while Guy was out and the race was red-flagged and cut short by 30 minutes.
“It was the right decision to stop the race,” said Guy. “I didn’t know if the bloke had crashed and dropped the oil, or the engine had shat itself and that caused him to crash. Either way, the track was a right mess at the end of the back straight so they had to stop it.”
Boast too was on a high after the chequered flag came out: “I’m really chuffed. We wanted to be top 20 in qualifying and scrape into the top 10 in the race and we’ve done that easily. Riding with Guy is always great, though I didn’t know he was going to be so competitive with me! Sharon (Guy’s girlfriend) said that his first question when he came in each time was always ‘how fast was I compared to Boastie?’. Little f***er! I thought it was just two mates sharing a ride, plus he’s always going to be quicker than me. Mind you, saying that, I was checking my times against him to make sure I wasn’t way off.”
Which he wasn’t, with the duo lap- ping within a couple of seconds of each other during most of the race.
The result is all the more impressive when you consider the competition: the top 15 teams are all made up of battle-hardened endurance veterans with riders such as Ian Simpson (EX-BSB champ and TT winner) and Mike Edwards (Macau GP winner). Whereas this was, effectively, Team Classic Suzuki’s first outing as their first race at Donington ended on lap one when James Whitham crashed out.
“We hadn’t run the bike for more than 20 minutes,” said the team’s crew chief Nathan Colombi. “So for it to run faultlessly for three-and-a-half hours in wet conditions is an achievement. We’re really pleased. A lot of the other bikes are incredibly competitive with many of the teams running the same bike and rider combination for three or four years. They’re at 99% of their potential. We’re probably at 70%.”
Consequently there are plenty of improvements to be made, added Colombi: “We need to look at improving the throttle response - when the weather closed in it made the bike run rich and feel woolly so it’s a learning process. And we need to improve the lights so the riders can see where they’re going!”
Colombi was impressed with how Guy fitted in. “He seemed to love the non-corporate style of team that we run. We have no-one to answer to - we just want to have fun. And it’s very much an old-school bike with a big set of carbs, and that fits with what Guy’s into. And he’s learning to trust us - it’s a commitment to go and ride as fast as you can on a bike that’s been prepared by someone you don’t know.”
Guy’s involvement started when he and Boast were practising short track racing together earlier in the year. “He asked if I fancied racing at Spa and it started from there,” said Guy. “To start with we were going to just come down here [to Spa] and race out the back of a van, but then Pete (Littlewood, who runs Guy’s local Suzuki dealer) said he could get us a loan of the Katana.”
So will we see Guy on the Katana again? “I really hope so,” says Colombi. “The next round is at Imola and Guy’s said he’s interested…”
‘I’ve had a great night. It’s back to riding bikes without any bulls***’ GUY MARTIN