I was lucky enough to meet world famous champion motorcyclist and TT legend John McGuinness when he popped into BetVictor’s offices in the new ultra-modern state-of-the-art World Trade Center complex in Gibraltar.
“I have been with BetVictor as an ambassador for a couple of years now and we are working hard to get the brand out there, doing some cool things,” John states, one of which was the stunt that took place at Gibraltar Airport where he rode his bike down the runway, hitting speeds of up to 180mph. “It was an amazing experience,” he says.
The Reception area at the Gibraltar based gaming company is now home to a one-off replica of the EMC2/BetVictor sponsored CBR1000RR Honda Fireblade. “They wanted a coat hanger for the office,” John jokes.
During the course of his iconic 21 year long career, John has clocked up a staggering 23 wins at the Isle of Man TT Races and 44 podiums and has the accolade of being the second most successful TT rider of all time. This season sees a new pairing between John and Guy Martin who have been announced by Honda as their two-rider line-up for its 2017 Road Racing assault at the North West 200 and Isle of Man TT in the Superbike classes. “This is great news because Guy is such a quirky character who has become a big favourite on television and we’ve enjoyed many a racing battle over the years, but I am really looking forward to racing together as team mates,” John confirms.
One of the things that John would like to achieve is to get his lap record back. “I had it from 2004 up until 2014 when I lost it during a tricky year during which I had a wrist injury,” he says. “I got it back in 2015 and then lost is again last year, but with the new Fireblade SP2 and the new team, there is no reason why we can’t get it back – but it will be tough.” John goes on to say that the current lap record holder is Michael Dunlop, whom he acknowledges as being a ‘hot-shot’. “I can only do my best,” John continues, “but at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter because winning the race is the most important thing for me.”
Born and bred in Morecambe with a thick Lancashire accent that is still very much evident, the Morecambe Missile credits his parents as being instrumental in starting his racing career. “My dad used to race and he had a motorcycle shop where he serviced bikes, so I was plonked on one at four years old,” he says. John remembers going to the Isle of Man as a ten year old to watch the racing and not wanting to go back home on the ferry. “I missed my Chemistry and English exams, but I learnt more by watching the 600cc class races at the TT,” he laughs.
In his upcoming autobiography due out in May, Built for Speed, John explains the thrill of going to the Isle of Man TT as a boy: ‘then I was there: the smells, the noise and the speed were all there for me to take in. It was like a massive injection in my head. I knew I was going to be a TT rider. I didn’t know how or what I was going to have to do to achieve this, and I knew my dad wasn’t going to be keen. Everyone around me knew the dangers, but I knew I had to do it.’
Now as a father of two to son Ewan, 16 and daughter Maisie, 7, John is fully aware of the safety aspects. “Ewan is not interested in bikes at the moment, although he has got a quad and there is obviously a bit of magic in there, but Maisie is probably the one who would race a motor bike, she is a chip off the old block.”
Admitting that he has been through a few rough times, John says that he thought he had seen everything during his career until he witnessed the death of a lad in front of him at the TT last year. “It’s something that I wouldn’t want anyone to experience,” he states. “I still shut my eyes eight months on and have that awful vision sometimes.”
Asked about his plans for the future, John hopes that he has a few more years left as a rider, but confirms that he will always stay involved with the sport. “I love it so much and I like bringing young riders through and being involved in a team,” he says. “It has given me so much joy, allowed me to travel the world and meet some amazing people.”
This article was also published in the April issue of InSight Gibraltar Magazine, page 20.