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He’s not quite the proverbial housewives’ pin-up favourite but there isn’t a bad word spoken about John McGuinness. Morecambe’s finest lines-up with Honda for a millionth successive year and is fighting fit ahead of the season – in the run-up to last year’s TT, McGuinness badly damaged his wrist after twatting a rock in an off-road crash and 2014’s results showed. But he’s back…
44Teeth caught up with a very happy, bubbly, positive McPint before crossing the Irish Sea to celebrate 25 years of racing.
On mowing the lawn before every TT and other superstitions…
“Yeah, weird isn’t it? I’ve got my voodoo doll on the back of my head since I won my first TT. I always wear daddy socks – every time I ride a motorbike, I wear daddy socks. In 2005, my little lad found a penny and dropped it down my leathers and I won the race. So now I have to have a penny down my leathers. It’s not the same one but between now and then, we’ll find a penny in a bizarre place and the missus will drop it my leathers, and it’ll end up in my crack or bellend. But there’s always a penny that comes for the high-speed fortnight.
“I say my prayers – I’m not a religious person but I always go for a pre-race dump with nerves. I’m not superstitious, but maybe I am. It’s a bit weird but everyone has their thing. If it helps you in anyway, take it.”
On breaking that wrist…
“To be honest, I was riding ok until I bust my wrist. It took a long time to get my confidence back, and long time to get strength in my wrist and get my head back in gear. Then one of the encouraging things last year when I was down in my luck, I raced at Darley Moor at the Stars of Darley and the results were encouraging. I thought maybe there was a bit of magic left in there. I wouldn’t say I worked hard all winter; I don’t really work that hard. I don’t know if I really worked that hard.
“I’ve been active: there’s been loads going on, a little bit moving and shaking with the teams and doing my own superstock thing. After a bit of testing, I’m probably riding better than I ever had gone. I’ve just turned 43. I’m feeling pretty sharp, focussed, engaged, motivated, and want to be competitive at the TT – I want to be back at the front.”
“As a rider, we’re all selfish; we think we’re not injured and a magic wand repairs us but my wrist was pretty smashed up and dislocated quite bad. I had cartilage damage, broken scaphoid, dislocated loonate, dislocated ligaments, so the surgery was like, ooooh…..
“I was so determined to compete in the TT last year. Looking back, maybe it wasn’t wasn’t the brightest thing I’ve done, but I was still believed I could do alright. I still finished 6th in the Senior and won the electric TT. I know some of the lads would give anything for a result like that.
“People were asking me [about the injury] and had all these comments coming in. I’d done my best, that’s all I could, and it’s easy to blame the wrist because it was hurting. It wasn’t massively painful, just tiring in a dangerous position. I wasn’t ever pushing myself at the TT where I thought it was out of control or dangerous.
“Sometimes in racing you’ve got to look after yourself and I just had to roll over that day. I came back and could do another day, but felt I had to have more strength and fitness in the wrist. Bruce borrowed my lap record for 12 months and Michael dominated again, but over 6 laps I’m still the strongest. That’s where you win races at the TT – you’ve got to be solid for the full 6 laps with pit stops and so on. I’m back to where I was in at least 2013. So bring it on!”
“There’s no question that he’s the man of the moment. Eight wins in two seasons – nobody has done that. He’s a winning machine and in his 20s. Where’s he going to end up in 15 years? He’s got talent, he’s got balls, there’s no question. People thinks he’s a bit mad. He skids it around on the back brake and floats around on the bike but i think it’s a bit of showboating,
“I do respect him. I don’t fear him, I respect anyone who can win but you know he’s a solid packaging. Good luck to him. I don’t dislike anyone on the track.
“This year? I think you’ve got to look at the entries. I could win, he could win, Hutchy could win, Michael Rutter could win even though he might be miserable. Then there’s Bruce and Peter Hickman, William Dunlop. Gary Johnson. Guy Martin, he could win. Dean Harrison. You don’t know what’s going to happen.”
On the potential TT World Series…
I don’t know about the World Series. I’m definitely interested when it all comes out, where we’re going to race and who’s going to support it, and whether manufacturers are getting involved. I don’t think right now at this stage in my career that I want to go and learn new circuits. Right now, I wouldn’t say no and I’d 100% love to be involved with some sort of ambassador, rider representative or something. I love racing – that’s my thing. I always worry that when I retire I’ll miss the travelling, miss the people. I’ll be involved somewhere along the way.”
On that moment, sitting on Glencrutchery Road, ready for TT take-off…
All sorts goes through my head. I’m proper shitting my pants, super-nervous at the start of any race. I want to get going down the hill and everyone get out of my way. I’ll just concentrate on what I’m doing, I used to worry about stuff but I work with good people and I don’t have to think about my tear-offs or anything. I think about my family, providing for my grandson and look out for the kids. You just want to get it going.
“Just get my visor shut, go into your little own world and then an hour and forty odd minutes of utter concentration and making no mistakes. Then you got to be strong at the start, grit your teeth. You’re in the lap of the gods first few miles, ‘cause 24 litres of fuel, new tyres, the thing’s a pig when you set off.
“I hope I’m in one piece, I hope I finish, I want to do a good job. I say a few little prayers for the boys who are not with us anymore and hope they look after me. I’m not one of these with music in my ears. I never understood that. If it works for you and puts you in some sort of a zone, then you know – I often wonder what they listen to. Maybe they’re learning to speak French or Spanish. Music pounding into my ears before I start? I can’t think of anything worse. It’s just you, the road, the bike and you just got to do your bit. It’s a one-way trip.”
“I ride for the Honda team, so they’re an extension of my brain, so what I’m thinking, they’re doing. I respect them so much. They’re doing 70 hours a week and I’m lying on the sofa. I imagine if you’re doing it privately, the lads have got a different mindset and different prep, worried about this and that, but I’ve got the best of everything so I’m really lucky. I ride scramblers and do as much riding as I can. Make sure home is happy and the kids are happy, the missus is happy. I’ve packed the right gear.
“Nothing prepares you for the TT. You do a couple of laps and you’re blowing out of your arse. You’ve got curbs, lampposts, trees whizzing past. There’s no simulator for that.”
On being happy…
“I’ve got a stable full of awesome bikes, working with awesome people and want to get stuck into the job. If you’re not at the TT this year, you’ve got to tick that box because it’s going to be awesome. I’ve ordered the sunshine. It’s going to be a record-breaking, milestone-making fortnight of action. I’m a bit nervous, a bit apprehensive but ready. I’m ready for the charge.”
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