John McGuinness in 2018 Isle of Man TT
When Honda Racing released in December its 2018 Road Racing CBR1000RR campaign riders, only two were mentioned – Ian Hutchinson and Lee Johnston.
There was one huge name missing: John McGuinness, the 23-time Isle of Man TT winner who is three TTs shy of the record held by the late Joey Dunlop.
Why? McGuinness was uncertain about racing due to recovering from his hectic North West 200 crash last May, which prevented him from competing in the 2017 Isle of Man TT. During the wreck, McGuinness broke vertebrae, ribs, and sustained multiple fractions in his lower right leg. That last injury required an external fixator cage to “grow” new bone.
Now, the 45-year-old “Morecambe Missile” says he’s healthy, and has confirmed he’s returning to racing—but not with Honda. Rather, McGuinness will compete aboard the factory Norton SG7 during the RST Superbike and PokerStars Senior TT races.
There’s no word if McGuinness will participate in the Supersport races, but if he does he’ll likely be on a Honda CBR600RR.
McGuinness joins 2015 British Superbike Champion Josh Brookes for a two-rider lineup on the SG7, which is based on Norton’s V4 RR street bike.
“I didn’t want to end my career due to an injury, but the truth is I didn’t know whether I would be able to come back as I didn’t know how fit I was going to be. Right now, things are going well,” John McGuinness says.
“I feel a lot sharper and my head is in gear and ready to go. The plan is to get the external fixator cage off my leg by the end of this month and after that we can start working towards getting bike fit and testing.”
“I’m definitely ready for a change of manufacturer. I needed an injection of enthusiasm and I’ve found it with Norton. From the first time I met with Stuart (Garner) the vibe was there and the passion. I watched Steve Hislop win the TT on the Norton in 1992 and it was massive.
“Everyone remembers that! We can’t get carried away, it’s going to be a big job but I’ve watched a lot of YouTube videos of the bike in action, I watched the bike out on track last year and it’s clearly a very fast and capable bike and I can tell you there are worse handling bikes out there too, so there’s no reason we can’t do the business if the stars line up right.”
His last IOM TT win was the 2015 Senior TT, where he claimed the outright lap record of 132.791 mph aboard the Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade (later broken in 2016 by Michael Dunlop on a BMW S 1000 RR).
McGuinness achieved podiums in both the 2016 RST Superbike and PokerStars Senior TT but missed last year’s TT race meeting due to the North West 200 crash.
In a career that has now stretched over twenty years, he first announced himself to the road-racing world in 1996, finishing the highest placed and fastest newcomer in the 250cc TT Race and his name has since become synonymous with the Isle of Man Mountain Course.
He has stood on the Isle of Man TT podium a record 46 times from 78 race finishes and is confident that more success is just around the corner now he has teamed up with this iconic British brand.
These stats were an obvious attraction for Norton Motorcycles CEO Stuart Garner: “We’ve been talking to John for a year or more, he’s the talent. He’s the man at the TT with the total experience, the results and the pedigree. We have the ambition to win the TT and to go on to develop a really strong team in years to come. We’d got John in our sights for a long time.”
“To get John in the Norton team with his experience and knowledge available is fabulous. Norton will seize the opportunity to get John involved in all aspects of the bike – he’s a huge asset to Norton. Everyone in the factory has got a huge buzz. It’s pretty special. We’re all looking forward to the TT but we’ve not set any targets and take nothing for granted. Putting John McGuiness and Norton together is a dream team, but we know all results at the TT are hard earned whatever your name.”
For more IOM TT news, visit our Isle of Man TT page.