2017 hasn’t been a good year for Honda Racing. With their star rider, John McGuinness, absent from the TT after a nasty crash at the North West 200 last month, it was all down to Guy Martin to salvage a result for the team on the mountain course.
However, with Martin off the pace at every race he’d ridden prior to the TT and the new Fireblade not as far down the development cycle as Honda would have hoped after its late arrival, it was never going to be easy.
Things would get even more difficult for Honda and Martin as the truck mechanic turned TV star crashed out of Sunday’s opening Superbike race after hitting a false neutral in the early stages of the first lap.
“Obviously you don’t want it happening where it happened, it was a bloody fast crash,” said team boss Jonny Twelvetrees.
“We watched the footage with him this morning, we’re glad he’s ok. The crash was caused by a false neutral, which could happen to anybody. There was nothing broken, the guys have checked the data, although that only tells you so much, and we’ve looked at the bike and there was nothing wrong with it.”
Speaking to ITV4, Martin has repeatedly claimed the bike ‘isn’t ready’, and while Twelvetrees admits that collectively, both the team and guy haven’t got it right yet they’re working hard to make it come together.
“We’re doing the same lap times around Castle Combe and the power figures are all increased compared to last year’s bike. It’s an evolution not a revolution so everything is pointing the right way. He wants things a lot differently in terms of power delivery and stuff like that so ultimately it’s not ready for him. Ultimately he’s a rider, he’s the only rider we’ve got here at the TT. He’s been working really hard and we’ve been working really hard to get the combination together and from that point of view, collectively, we haven’t got it right.”
It was never going to be easy for Martin returning to the mountain course after a year away, even more so after a year in which both practice and races were held in glorious conditions allowing his competitors to get a significant number of laps whereas this year has been quite the opposite.
“There’s no taking away from the fact Guy hasn’t been here for a year. This is the most difficult race track in the world. You can’t expect to be on it by being away for a year. Equally, the way he went out before in 2015 with his crash is not to be taken out of the equation either. Physically he’s there, for sure, but it takes time and practice to be on the pace around here. Last year they’d done 25 laps before racing, this year he’s had five. The amount of practice they had last year was an awful lot more and that’s going to have an effect.”
The question now surrounds whether Martin and Honda will race Friday’s Senior TT. At present, the plan is to go ahead but Martin sat out of today’s 600cc race so not to agitate the pain in his wrist.
“On the 600, he decided he wasn’t quite up to it today. He wanted to sit that one out and rest his arm.
“Ultimately it’s a team call, at the moment he’s fit to ride and was planning to ride the Mugen on Monday. Now he’s saying we’ll see how he feels on Wednesday. Ultimately it’s a conversation we’ll have between us as a team.”
Pick up a copy of our special edition McGuinness: Ordinary bloke. Extraordinary Racer. This special from MCN, celebrates the career of one of the sport's best-loved road racers. Affectionately known as McPint, John's career has wowed and entertained bike racing fans for more than 20 years. Buy it here.
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