IOM TT Rider Profile: Guy Martin
I first met Guy Martin as a guest of Dainese at the 2008 TT. It was at dinner the night before the big race and he and his Hydrex sponsored Honda had drawn the #1 plate and therefore first starting position. He was quietly measured and clearly down to earth, an obviously nice guy with a genuinely affable and sometimes animated personality.
Linked to a big, quick smile, his broad Lincolnshire accent and speech peppered with “oh, aye” give away his working class roots, and he’s obviously proud of them. He won’t even admit to being a professional “motorbike racer” (as he calls it), simply referring to himself as a “diesel fitter”.
His dad owns a trucking business and Guy’s day-job is to rebuild giant Cummins diesel motors. In answer to my question of how he keeps fit, his reply was to laugh and say “diesel-fittin’ lad… that’ll keep yer fit all day long”.
Strangely to me, Guy seemed to have no nerves about the race that was going to happen next day. “I get angry when people tell me how dangerous it is” he said, his green eyes hard and his laser-sharp stare giving away the steel behind the smile.
“No-one’s holding a gun to my head; I know what I’m doing and unlike other sports if something goes wrong, it’s only me that suffers; I won’t take anyone with me.”
Good point I thought. So why do it? Aren’t you just asking for trouble? Motorcycling is all about risk management? “Aye” he says, and then quickly adds “…but the TT is unique. It’s all about the challenge. There’s nowt to compare it to. This is more like climbing Everest; it’s an accomplishment–and there’s nowt else in this world compares to the rush”. He took another sip of his now trademark cuppa tea and smiled. “I listen to thrash metal to get me proper wound up before I go out; it gets me goin’. It’s great.”
The next day I was situated in someone’s front garden on Bray Hill. I heard Guy’s wailing motor in the distance and watched agog as he crested through the mind-warpingly quick traffic-light junction some 100 yards up the hill. He was tapped out in fifth gear. The front wheel pawed the air briefly and then came down with a slight shimmy.
Tucked in tight behind the screen, Martin ignored the speed-wobble and flashed past me doing around a buck eighty; he was mere feet from where I was standing. The concussion from the blast of air almost lifted me off my feet. It was shocking stuff.
Apparently he broke the lap record on that lap–from a standing start no less–and had a handy lead when his bike expired on the Sulby Straight a couple laps later, putting him out of the race. Interestingly, John McGuiness’ bike had died in the same place a lap earlier, so he’d got to watch Martin come past on one of the fastest parts of the course. “You looked like a low-flying plane” Guy later reported John had said to him; they were both clearly stunned at the speeds they obviously get to do. I guess it’s amazing even for a rider to watch the TT.
The level of concentration needed by these men is utterly astonishing. Guy admitted that they aim for marks and pieces of pavement within “a couple of inches” and he had a graze on the shoulder of his Dainese suit from where he’d obviously cut it a bit fine with a brick wall. On one practice session the seat of his Honda had come slightly loose. “It wasn’t dangerous” he said with disarming understatement. “But it were enough of a distraction to have me miss a couple of my marks–and that won’t do at the TT, it won’t do at all. So I pulled in and had it fixed.”
“How did you learn the track for the first time Guy?” I asked; a couple years earlier he’d figured it out impressively quickly. “David Jeffries 2002 on-board video” he replied with honesty. “I watched it every day for a year before I even set foot on the Island. By the time I got to ride the first time, I knew which corner was coming next and which gear I had to be in; all I had to do after that was figure out the little stuff. Not easy, that, but I managed.”
No kidding. Since then, Guy Martin has been universally acknowledged as the fastest TT rider without a win; surely something that will change soon.
I asked him if the team used any sort of traction control on his Honda. “No boy” he replied “it’s not possible, it wouldn’t work. At any given moment either one–or both–of the wheels is off the ground, so we’d never be able te compare them wheel speeds.” I think at that point I just kinda gawped at him.
I’ve met Guy Martin a few times since then. He occasionally writes for one of Britain’s magazines and we always share a quick hello and a ‘laff’. He was at the Kawasaki ZX-6R launch at the incredible Autopolis raceway a couple years ago, and was as fast and consistent as ever. He fell off through a gnarly, particularly fast downhill right hander at the foot of the hill; but he got up, dusted himself off, and later in the pits brushed off the nasty graze on his finger as “nowt too bad.”
They’re made of stern stuff in the North East of England, in the Fens where Martin hails from. The land is very flat, agriculture is the dominant industry, and the people are gritty and tough. Favored son Guy Martin is one of the toughest customers of all and a brilliant TT rider.
We here at Ultimate MotorCycling, and I for one especially, are very glad that my friend Guy survived his crash this week and will be back in the saddle soon. He fully deserves a win and it’s clearly only a matter of time until he gets it. I assume that right now he’s sitting up in his hospital bed, listening to some thrash metal while he sups on another cuppa, just winding himself up ready for his next breathtaking ride on a superbike.