Bike Social managed to catch up with John McGuinness during the Classic TT on the Isle of Man to talk about the event, riding with Giacomo Agostini, his own racing future and what will happen when he retires.
The 20-time TT race winner who sits 2nd on the all-time list behind the late, great Joey Dunlop with 26 wins, was a busy man during the Classic TT. Not only did the ‘Morecombe Missile’ have the chance to race the Roger Winfield-owned Paton in the Bennetts 500cc Classic but he also re-created the famous Hailwood v. Agostini race from 1967 by playing the part of Mike Hailwood and riding alongside the 15-time world champion. Sunday bought an appearance, signing sessions and parade laps at the Festival of Jurby alongside a whole host of world champions including Freddie Spencer, Phil Read and Kork Ballington. And to finish the weekend, McGuinness got to ride a replica of his Honda TSR 250, the bike on which he won his first TT race in 1999.
This years’ Manx GP was combined with the newly formed Classic TT and held over the Bank Holiday weekend marks the beginning of a new annual event for the Isle of Man and its race fans, something that McGuinness rates.
So this event marks the start of a new era for the Isle of Man, what are your thoughts?
JM: It’s a fantastic event and it’ll only get better. There are a few bits and pieces that’ll need tuning up but I’m fully behind it; me and the family have had a great time and a lot of other families too. I don’t need my arm twisting too far up behind my back to come to come to the Isle of Man, I love the place, there’s nowhere else like it in the world.
We’ve met some great people, had a craic, got dressed up, got involved in the carnival. It keeps in the spirit of things, there was a really good carnival atmosphere and loads of people about. When you think about it, there are about 40 world championships and 60 TT wins represented here this weekend. It’s amazing that everyone’s here.
You were clearly disappointed with how the Bennetts 500cc race went, talk us through it.
JM: <sighs> We’ve had problems with the bike all week. The team and myself we’ve been scratching our heads trying to figure out what was wrong with it. We changed everything and still weren’t able to find the problem. We thought we had it sussed out for the race but as soon we went off the line, there was a misfire.
People have come a long way, they want to see the Paton go round, I was going round ok but it was misfiring like b*ggery so I thought we’d do a lap and then pull into the pits. I felt gutted for the team, we came here to have a result but it was still fun. To not get a chance was disappointing, especially after doing 111mph in practise which was bang on the lap record.
How about riding with Giacomo re-creating that lap, how did you feel lining up alongside a 15-time world champion?
JM: Yeah that was cool, pretty special, I never thought that when I started road racing at 18 that I’d be stood on the start line re-enacting probably one of the most famous races in the world, or ever, especially around here. I went to town with the pudding basin on, goggles, black leathers, even the tape around the boots…just how the great man had it.
We had a giggle riding round pulling faces at each other. He was going well, he’s 70 years old and we were going at an obscene speed! Ago even stopped at the Creg and said “my chain’s broken!” we had a bit of banter then he wanted a push start! I left the Honda in the hedge and was almost at Brandish by the time he was fired up! We had a bit of a race although he got a bit lost at one point then we had a run to the line together. It was fantastic.”
He just cleared off at the start! I did the old push-start thing but I didn’t quite get it right, I wanted to do the cool side saddle thing down the road but I couldn’t quite do it! I couldn’t get my fat ar*e on the seat! Nice though, they made a lot of noise and Pauline Hailwood (Mike’s widow) gave us a tap off which was nice.
How about your plans for the rest of the season?
JM: I’ve got the Le Mans 24 hour race (with the Honda TT Legends team), sort of pencilled in to do a race in Scarborough, I’ll do the last BSB round at Brands Hatch with Padgetts and then I’ll do the Macau GP…somehow! Then much of the same next year. It’s hard to let go, I’m still enjoying it!
Reflecting on this year’s TT, you got the one win, but does that spur you on for next year, does you become more competitive each year?
JM: It’s enjoyable, the whole atmosphere at the TT is incredible now…the build-up, the atmosphere, the press conferences, the cool sponsors the TT has nowadays, it all adds a bit pressure though, sometimes you feel as though you’ve got the weight of the world on your shoulders but you have to deal with it. As soon as you get on the bike it’s still the most amazing track in the world, you’re still riding around the best track ever and if you have a bit of success it feels even sweeter.
At the TT this year, I had a great year. People said “oh you’ve struggled a bit this year” but I had my personal best result in the 600’s, good results here, there and everywhere and then managed to win the main race. So it all went ok really.
When retirement comes will you still stay in the sport?
JM: Yeah, I’ll still stay in the sport. I’d find it really difficult to leave it behind, it’s given me so much pleasure and I’ve met so many nice people, travelled all over the world. And I’ve made a crust out of it so I just want to give a little bit back to the sport, I’m sure I could help somebody or be of some use to something in the industry. Yeah we’ll keep involved.