Where does it leave McGuiness?
As we predicted last issue, 16-time Isle of Man TT winner Ian Hutchinson has signed to contest the 2018 road racing season with the factory Honda squad, where he will be joined by three-time North West 200 winner Lee Johnston in a two-rider campaign.
The duo will use the CBR1000RR SP2 in the North West 200, the Isle of Man TT and the Ulster Grand Prix, the same schedule as last year’s big-name pairing of John McGuinness and Guy Martin were set to contest, though the late arrival of the all-new Fireblade and consequent gremlins made for a year Honda would rather forget.
That doesn’t appear to concern the Englishman or the Northern Irishman, however, with Hutchy calling it “a fresh start” and Johnston saying it’s the “most excited I’ve been in years”.
“I have quite a bit of history with Honda,” Hutchinson said. “Ten years ago I rode with this official team and in 2009/2010 I rode with Padgetts Honda, where I scored five TT wins in a week, so I know the Fireblade pretty well.”
While Hutchinson is yet to ride the new-for-2017 Blade, new teammate Johnston is a step ahead in that regard, having ridden the bike during his time as reserve for Honda Endurance Racing in the Le Mans 24 Hour.
“I enjoy riding the CBR; the tank fits me well and it isn’t as big as it looks,” Johnston said. “I can’t wait now for testing to start in March and to just get going with the new program for the year.”
The news from Honda leaves many wondering where veteran Honda rider McGuinness might pop up for his 2018 campaign – or if indeed the 23-time Isle of Man TT winner is set to call time on his glittering career following the whopper off he had in June last year, which left him with a badly broken right leg.
While the moves of Hutchy, Johnston and McGuinness are capturing the most headlines, there are some more important signings for this year’s roads campaign.
Derek Shiels has been named as Team Penz13 BMW Motorrad Motorsport’s rider for the Isle of Man TT, while Joey Thompson will have a factory S1-R Paton at his disposal at the Isle of Man, North West 200, Southern 100 and Ulster Grand Prix.
Horst Saiger and his Saiger Racing team will switch to Yamaha machinery for the 2018 road racing season, having signed a deal with the Swiss Yamaha Importer, Hostettler.