McGuinness: "I couldn’t think of anything worse than retiring"

Speaking at the launch of the AA’s Think Bike road safety campaign, Bike Social caught up with one of its ambassador’s, 20-time Isle of Man TT winner, John McGuinness who spoke about:

  • The TT: “it’s only 11 weeks away”
  • His new bike: “it feels like my wife”
  • Rivals: “Dunlop will wrestle it into submission”
  • The new breed: “the TT future is really strong”
  • Electric future: “a beautiful, bespoke work of art”
  • Retirement: “I’m not getting any younger”
  • Classic TT: “not so much pressure”
  • Who’ll be MotoGP Champion: “…he's rough round the edges”

The video of the interview is at the end of this article.

On backing the AA’s Think Bike campaign…

The campaign was launched at Marble Arch this morning with backing from the MCIA, the Police, the London Mayor, Olympic cyclist Chris Boardman, Halfords and of course, John McGuinness.  The emphasis is on creating more awareness and respect from drivers by using stickers to act as reminders each time a driver looks in their mirror.

John McGuinness and Chris Boardman launch a new AA campaign

How did John get involved, “Well, you know, at the end of the day, motorcyclist and cyclists are pretty vulnerable out there on the road. The AA approached me through Honda to ask me to endorse it and of course, a little bit of respect for everyone else on the road. If it saves lives then of course I’ll be involved. We’ve just go to give everyone a bit of room and a bit of respect.  I should probably do a bit more cycling to keep fitter for the racing anyway!

I’ll be putting the stickers on the motorhome, probably because I’m a northerner and they’re free of charge (at Halfords)!  I drive an 18 tonne motorhome which could do some damage so I’ll put the stickers on and be more aware of the bikes, because of my passion I wouldn’t want to be involved in any kind of accident with a bike.”

McGuinness admires the AA's Think Bike sticker

On preparations and ambitions for the TT…

McGuinness first competed at the TT in 1996 and took the first of his 20 wins in 1999 in the Lightweight 250 race.  He’s the outright lap record holder but how are the preparations going for the 2014 TT:

“We’re only 11 weeks away at the moment but preparations are going well beyond the scenes – we’ve got the same team, the same staff, I know what the Fireblade’s like. It feels like my wife, I know what she’s going to do when I’m riding her!

Ambitions; I want to be safe, I want to enjoy the TT and when you’re enjoying and everything’s working there’s a possibility of a few more results – I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t like to win a few more TT’s but we’ll get stuck in and see where we end up!”

On his new TT bike…

With Honda launching a new Fireblade and an SP version for their 2014 road range does this mean big changes for McGuinness and his Honda team?

“We’re using Honda’s new Fireblade SP – it’s got a bit more power, a few more tweaks but we’ll work hard, there might be little changes but what we’ve got isn’t broken so we can’t really fix it. We’re still the lap record holder’s, still doing the business so we’ll keep it as we are and try and fine tune it up a bit and see what happens on the day.”

McGuinness starts the 2013 Senior TT

On his new TT team mate…

Conor Cummins was confirmed as McGuinness’s team mate in November and the Manxman has already got five TT podiums under his belt.  How’s he fitting in?

“I love Conor, he’s a great kid.  I have a lot of respect for him from when he had his tumble in 2010 when he went flying off the side of the mountain at 155mph and to come back from those injuries. He’s worked hard, trained hard and deserves a shot.  He still has the fastest standing start lap on the Isle of Man, 3 or 4 years ago. He’s competitive and you couldn’t work with a nicer lad so I’m looking forward to it.”

On Farquhar and Amor coming out of retirement…

Ryan Farquhar and Keith Amor retired from racing in 2012 and 2011 respectively but both are back and racing as team-mates at the TT this year, so does John ever consider retiring?

Amor and Farquhar are coming out of retirement

“Ryan’s an old sparring partner of mine, I have a lot of respect for him. He’s a hard and fair competitor and he’s won TT’s.  You don’t know with Keith, he was my old team mate – he’s probably run out of money so he’s probably come back trying to earn a few quid!! Good guy, I have a lot of time for him.  Why not, it’s good for the series, it’s good for the racing, and road racing in general.  When they retired I just knew they were going to come back for some reason. 

I’m not getting any younger myself but I couldn’t think of anything worse than retiring at the moment. Keith had bump on his shoulder but he’s now feeling good so he probably wants another go.”

On the new breed of TT racers…

With Josh Brookes making a huge impact in 2013, the likes of Danny Webb and Peter Hickman among the newbies for this year as well as those establishing themselves as potential TT winners, who’ll be making the biggest impact?

“The TT future is really strong at the moment, there’s riders from all over the world coming, top class riders like Danny Webb – Grand Prix frontrunner, Peter Hickman – front running BSB, James Hillier’s coming of age – a 131mph man, William Dunlop’s ready to win TT’s, don’t know about Guy Martin (McGuinness smiles – Ed), it’s about time he did, I’m sure he is going to! And Josh Brookes, what a solid job he did last year. I took David Jeffries lap record of him at 127.6mph and that’s what Josh did in his first year, an incredible job, he’s got a massive future ahead of him. I’m sure in a year or two, or even this year he’ll be winning TT’s.

And Hutchy’s back as well. To come back from such serious injuries with a win in Macau a few months ago, he’s going to be on the place as well.”

Ian Hutchinson wins at Macau

On his rivals and their different bikes…

Michael Dunlop will be on a BMW, Ian Hutchinson is riding a Yamaha whilst Conor Cummins is on board an identical Honda but who will come out on top? Either way, it’ll be good for the spectators surely.
“Yeah, different manufacturers, then there’s Norton kicking about too, they’ll be on the grid.  Hutchy’s back, Dunlop’s on the BMW – people swapping and changing about, it’s good for the sport. A few new sponsors too, I wish I was 10 years younger but there’s still six or seven of us that could win races. They’re all in there – all the top Japanese manufacturers, European manufacturers, Norton are going to be there so from the spectator’s point of view…well, I can’t wait to be a spectator sat on the bank with a few beers and some sandwiches watching some racing!”

On Dunlop’s BMW…

Having taken four wins last year it was reported that Michael Dunlop was considering a sabbatical…until he signed for BMW as revealed by Bike Social.  How’s he going to get on with the S1000RR? Can it go the distance?

“BMW don’t make a bad product and you’ve got Stuart Hicken working with the bike – I worked with Stuart and the guys before when they had Hawk Kawasaki, I have a lot of time and respect for them so they’ll do a good, solid job so there’s no reason why it won’t finish. If it’s a bit bad handling or has a few little problems then Michael Dunlop will grab it by the horns and wrestle it into submission. He will be running at the front that’s for sure. He’s going to be a strong, hard competitor who’s going to take some beating.

BMW's Michael Dunlop

Not only Michael but there’s a few other guys in there, we haven’t mentioned Bruce Ansty. Bruce, if he gets out of the right side of the bed then he’s just unbelievable.  He doesn’t have to test, just gets out of bed, jumps on it and goes, an amazing talent, he’s a natural.

I’m going to go about my business the way I do every year; concentrate hard, do my best and if my best is good enough to win and if it isn’t then I’ll try again.”

Michael Dunlop took four TT wins in 2013

On his Mugen electric bike…

McGuinness has finished in second place behind Michael Rutter in the past two TT Zero races, so what is it about the electric bikes that keeps him going back for more?

“There are grown men turning their back on it because they don’t believe electric is the future but it’s a beautiful, bespoke work of art, a stunning piece of technology. I don’t really understand electrics; it just makes sparks and crackly noises and hurts when you get electrocuted!
I know when you get on it, it doesn’t hang about, lapping at about 110mph. it’s a bit different, it doesn’t do anything bad, it’s quite heavy but super smooth and good fun to ride.  We just missed out to Michael Rutter over the last couple of years which is bit frustrating.

Third time lucky? Yeah, hope so.  I’d like to not only for myself for the Mugen boys – they put their heart and soul into it and though last year we were going to see a few of them falling on their sword, they were a bit suicidal when we just missed out!  For those guys, they deserve the win, they’ve worked hard for three years.  I’m sure we will. We’ve got two Mugen’s out there with Bruce – he’s good on the smaller bikes by carrying corner speed so Bruce is going to take some stopping too.”

On the different mind-set for TT Zero…

When jumping off a race-ready superbike and onto an electric bike, how do you re-set your mind with no gears or engine braking?

“There’s a little bit of engine braking with the system that re-generates the battery but it’s funny, you go into automatic mode. You just don’t get enough practice, a bit frustrating. Some of the corners you go round and think ‘I could have gone through there with an open throttle’ and it takes so much time to build yourself back up to top speed, that’s when you lose vital seconds.  If you could do 20 laps in practise you could be really, really fast but we never get the opportunity, it’s just 2 or 3 laps then we’re straight into the race.

Whatever you say about them, they’re part of the deal. People say they’re rubbish but you wouldn’t want to be sat on the back of it because you’d be holding on tight!  It’s a special race for me and enjoy working with those guys.

I’m off to test it again in Japan just after the first BSB round. We do some testing over there and get invited across, go to M-Tech, look around the workshops. It’s a good experience, I like Japan, it’s a different place, a bit quirky I enjoy going across to see what they’re up and if I show my interest when they’re putting the work in and show that we deserve to win.”

On the Classic TT…

The Classic TT went under a regeneration last year but you didn’t have the best of luck with the racing, how did it feel?

“Frustrating with that job, there was a little electric problem that we didn’t get to the bottom of. I don’t think that’s going to happen again. It was a bit frustrating seeing Olie (Linsdell) clearing off into the distance on his Paton but I like the idea of it, I love the classic racing. When I was a kid I watched those guys riding those bikes. I was dead proud to ride my 250 in the parade last year, we’re going to do a bit more in the parade this year. I like to get amongst it like getting dressed up last year, had a bit of fun! 

McGuinness and Agostini at the Classic TT

The racing is fun, there’s not so much pressure. The TT has a lot of pressure but there’s still going to be a hard race, there’s the MV’s in there, the Paton’s, Honda’s and all the top TT riders are doing it. It’ll be a tough, competitive race but I’m going to go end enjoy it and try and win one of those.”

On the 2014 MotoGP Championship…

Pre-season testing has seen some close times but we’ve also been without reigning Champion Marc Marquez.  Who, in your mind, will be this year’s man?

“I’d love to see Rossi win it again but I know it’s going to be tough for him.  He’s such a character, such a massive icon in the sport it’d be great to see him win.  But really it’s got to be Marquez or Lorenzo. Marquez is a bit rough round the edges whilst Lorenzo is a bit more polished, never puts a foot wrong. They all deserve to win it, they all put the effort in but from my heart I’d like to see Rossi but I’d probably say Marquez.”

Here's the interview in video form: