John McGuinness is a household name in real roads racing with 23 TT wins to his credit – so how does he feel about the job ahead with a new bike and Guy Martin by his side?
You’re just 3 wins away from equaling Joey Dunlop’s record, is that a motivating factor for you?
Well, not really because I’ve had my pack of cards dealt 20 years ago and somebody said you’ll win 6 TT’s so I never really dreamed or decided to 23, but 26 will be icing on the cake to match Joey. Joey has been my all time hero. The bottom line now is enjoy riding the bikes and development of the bikes and stay in one piece really. You know, the rest of it, if it happens it happens, if it don’t, then I’ve had a great career I suppose. Being safe I think is the most important thing.
It’s 20 years now you’ve been going there, so you must feel like you know the track just about as well as anybody else – is it a special year for you?
Well, you’ve got to concentrate the same way and treat the place with the same respect as you have after five years, ten years, whatever. It is like another year, it’s a nice thing to be involved in to do every year straight through and not miss any. When I think back, I started on 250 2-strokes, I’ve ridden 125s, I’ve ridden V-twin Ducatis, Triumphs, two strokes, four strokes, it’s been amazing. To start this as another milestone is really cool. I’ve just got to keep the concentration levels on and then just take it as it comes really.
I guess a lot of the time you do your best work when you’re relaxed?
That’s it. There’s a lot of pressure on, running for a manufacturer you put a lot of pressure on yourself, new bike, everybody is going to be looking in, probably more so even this year – I’ve got a space cadet for a team mate as well, so probably the pressure will be off me a little bit, I think all the media and everybody else will be looking towards Guy really. He’s ridden other bikes and other tyre manufacturers and he reckons that the Honda’s going to be the answer for him. Good luck to him really and I hope he does alright. It’s quite cool because if he wins we’ll have a day off I think… in fact it’ll probably be a national day off in the UK if he wins!
You were the first to break 130 mph lap, then the 131 mph, and now they’re knocking on the door of 134 mph. Do you think that record will go this year?
It’s always a difficult one to say and it’s really hard to predict because it’s all to do with the weather. If the track’s dry all week, the racing line is clean, there’s a bit of rubber down, everybody is on fire. But if you have two nights of practice and then one night off and you start to lose the rhythm and you lose the set up. Everybody slows down a bit and then speeds up until the confidence gets higher and higher. Michael told me you could do 135 miles an hour which is insane really. If he does do that I’ll be the first man to shake his hand. It will always get faster, the surface gets a little bit better here and there, the bikes are getting stronger, tyres are getting better, and boys are prepared to just stick out the neck out a little bit more.
But there’s never really been a last-lap real fight where everybody is like elbow to elbow. When I broke that record in 15 he was slowing down for the pits, and then I gapped him in the pits and then same with Michael. He had a real strong two laps at the start and then slowing down for the pits holds you back six seconds. He was straight through in the last laps, the only flying lap, so he could go 135 an hour. Who knows what the limits but you need the conditions to be right, your bikes need to be good, you’re confident – maybe two or three boys at it wheel to wheel. But I would like to win the race at the slowest pace really. That’s always the nice pace, but nowadays it’s so tight, so hard, so competitive sometimes it’s what you’ve got to do.
Photos: Russell Colvin
by Paul McCann