Three years after he last competed at the Isle of Man TT, road racing legend John McGuinness will finally make his return later this year and although he admits the nerves are beginning to kick in, there’s also plenty of excitement as he looks to get back to winning ways.
McGuinness will campaign Norton’s new V4 in the Superbike and Senior races and will also ride for the British manufacturer in the Lightweight race on board their Superlight machine which, whilst looking impressive, is yet to turn a wheel. A three-year gap is a big absence for any rider even if they are a 23-time TT winner and the Morecambe man is well aware of the task ahead of him in 2019.
“I’m not going to lie, I’m nervous and apprehensive as three years is a long time to be away and the honest answer is that until race week gets underway, I can’t say how well I’ll go,” McGuinness told bikesportnews.com.
“But what I will say is that I’m excited to be back and will be giving it my all as always as I want to get back on the podium. I won’t be putting any pressure on myself to do that though and what will be will be but I haven’t forgotten how to ride so I have to believe that it’s an achievable goal.
“The TT is always a challenge and has been for all of my other 93 races so this year is no different in that sense, it’s just a different challenge this year. The game’s definitely moved on since I was last at the TT in 2016 but my last lap that year was a mid 132mph so the aim is to carry on from where I left off and make that my starting point. I might not have raced the Norton at the TT before but I can take a lot of positives from what Josh (Brookes) and Davo have done on the bike.”
Josh did a 131.7mph lap in 2018 and finished fifth so that gives me a good reference and a good base to work from.
“I managed to get out and about watching in various places last year and the bike looked good so that gives me a lot of confidence. It looked stable everywhere and is clearly fast so if we can add a couple more mph to the speeds the bike’s done before, we should be in the mix for a podium.”
“What can I do? That’s a bit of a crystal ball question and I’ve never been one to make predictions but we’ll be putting in the miles before practice week so we’ll be ready and do our best. That’s all I can do and there’s no point saying I’m going to do this, that or the other as you can’t do that with the TT. There are so many factors that can come into play and the stars need to align in order to get that win and another silver lady.”
McGuinness would certainly have rather been racing but if there was any time to watch the TT, then last year was it as the racing was spectacular and he got to witness first hand just what the likes of Peter Hickman and Dean Harrison were doing so is he fazed by their 135mph laps?
Peter’s the man to beat without doubt and I take my hat off to him for what he achieved last year. And Dean as well. He really came of age.
The 135mph lap was good to watch as you could see Hicky wasn’t doing anything crazy or super special whilst he was also very respectful of the slower riders when he caught them. He was hitting all of his apexes and was confident with his bike so that, plus the fact he was battling for the lead on his flying lap, meant the 135 was possible.”
“I’ve never had to push like that on the sixth and flying lap as, fortunately for me, my race wins have come from building up a decent lead in the first few laps so it just shows what can happen when it’s a close race.”
McGuinness was the first rider, in recent times at least, to see the benefit of contesting the British Championship races prior to the TT and has been a keen advocate of track time, something which everyone is now doing. But this year, it’s role reversal as he won’t be doing any racing until he gets to the North West 200 but he’s not unduly concerned.
“The beauty of riding for Norton is that we can pick and choose what we do and where – if we want to go Oulton Park to do 100 laps, we will. If we want to go to Spain, we will so I have no doubts I’ll have got plenty of riding under my belt by the time I get to the TT. I’ve been putting in the miles on the enduro bike as well as, for me, any form of riding is valuable when it comes to preparing for the TT.”
Although he’s yet to confirm his plans for the Supersport class, the 46-year old will also be competing in the Lightweight races for the first time and the new challenge is one he’s relishing.
“I was due to ride one of Ryan’s bikes in 2017 but the crash at the North West put paid to that so it will be good to finally do it this time around. The Norton is an interesting project for sure and a number of components are identical to the V4 whilst it looks trick as. None of us have ridden it yet so I’ve no idea how it will pan out but with Peter and Davey in the team as well, the intentions are clear. Having a new manufacturer in the class can only be a good thing.”