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Grid Talk – John McGuinness | COLUMNS | GASSIT GARAGE

We caught up John McGuinness, with the 23-times Isle of Man TT winner at this year’s International Festival of Speed

How did that Manx Classic TT win last year fit into your racing comeback?

I had to finish six races to get my TT licence back so I’d already done some club races. To be honest, I wanted to win at the Classic TT. I’d been in a mess after my accident at the 2017 North West 200 (the winner of 23 TTs suffered vertebrae, rib and leg fractures). I needed something to strive for. I knew I had the best bike (Paton 500 twin) and the best team (Winfield Racing). It was a solid race. I hit the apexes and was chuffed to win. It was a big tick-the-box exercise. Mum and Dad, who don’t both come to watch me race, were there.

Then you went to the Macau GP after 16 months off a Superbike. Talk us through that.

Macau is my territory. I know it really well and I was fit to ride. Some people might think ‘he only came 10th; he’s a wanker’ but for me it was a huge step forward. I qualified 8th and came 10th in some very good company. I was on a Ducati (Paul Bird Motorsport Panigale 1199cc), which was a fresh sheet of paper after riding four-cylinders. It’s narrow; you sit in a different position; it was very different to ride but also very stable under brakes.

So another important step on the way back?

If I’d gone around Macau and shat myself, I would have had to go home and have a good look in the mirror and think about my racing future.

Now we come to 2019 and your plans to race at the NW200 and TT. Exactly where is that at the moment?

Norton has been jumping through hoops to get things sorted. I have three Norton Superbikes: the two existing racers (powered by Aprilia V4 engines) and one with Norton’s own V4 engine. Out of those we’ll choose the one that works best for me.

Is Mick Grant still the crew chief?

Yes. We just click. He’s old school like me so I don’t feel there is a lot of pressure. You don’t need a crew chief with a laptop and sunglasses to win at the TT. You need the right bike and team.

Where are things at with the Norton Superlight racer for the Supertwins class?

It’s being built now with my input and help. I’ve got a three-year agreement with Norton; whether I race for all those three years or not I’ll still be involved. Stuart Garner (Norton CEO) is very passionate about the TT and the possibility of winning one.

What’s the training regime from here?

I’m not a gym kind of guy. I’ll be out riding motocross and enduro with a few track days thrown in. You can’t do any proper testing before a TT. The first time down Bray Hill is either an eye opener or it all feels good.

Let’s sum up your thoughts going into TT’19 with a new team and on an entirely different bike?

All the boxes are ticked. The family’s all good with it. My long-time sponsors are with me. Norton has been knocking on the door of the podium for a while now (last year Josh Brookes set a 131.745mph lap). You’re not building a shit bike when it goes out and does a 132mph lap.

Interview Hamish Cooper