How Guy Martin’s much-hyped Isle of Man TT comeback in 2017 ended with a whimper – Belfast Newsletter
The Kirmington man’s comeback following a serious accident during the Dundrod 150 Superbike race at the Ulster Grand Prix in August 2015 was announced with much fanfare in January three years ago, when fans’ favourite Martin teamed up with TT legend John McGuinness.
However, it proved a year to forget for both. A crash during Superbike qualifying at the North West 200 had long-term ramifications for McGuinness, who only made his full TT return last year as a result of the injuries he sustained to his right leg in the incident.
In the aftermath, Honda – unable to rule out a technical problem as a contributing factor in the accident – withdrew from the Superbike and Superstock races at the North West.
An unexpected throttle blip, caused by an issue with the ECU on the new Fireblade SP2, was later found to have led to McGuinness’s crash.
With the 23-time TT winner ruled out, all the focus was on Martin’s return to the Mountain Course. Honda’s withdrawal from the NW200 denied the fast-talking TV presenter much-needed mileage on the new ’Blade, with Martin only having limited time on the bike at the Cookstown 100 and Tandragee 100 road races.
He also had a run out at Castle Combe prior to the TT to test a new electronics kit, with Honda switching over from the race kit ECU to the Motec system used by its BSB riders.
After an unspectacular practice week, Martin set off at number eight in the RST Superbike race.
Moments before, he said: “I was here for one reason, but now it’s just turning into a big struggling match. But no, I’m not pleased but then I walk the dog on the beach in the morning and it’s great – you are lucky over here.
“I came back for one reason and one reason only: to do the business. But it’s not happening and it’s not going to happen.”
In the worst possible scenario for the English star and Honda, he crashed on the opening lap at the fast left-hand Doran’s bend, somehow escaping with only a bruised wrist.
A false neutral was declared as the cause of the crash and a visibly shaken Martin had the demeanour of a man who knew the outcome could have been very different.
Rumours began to circulate over whether or not the 35-year-old would ride the Honda in the blue riband Senior event. As race morning dawned, the news that Honda and Martin had withdrawn from the blue riband Senior TT was confirmed.
The official team statement said a lack of set-up time was the reason for the decision.
Martin, who did compete in the TT Zero race for Mugen – finishing second behind team-mate Bruce Anstey – said in a press conference that he was ‘sick to the back teeth’.
“We’ve had a bit of an… well I don’t know what the right word is, I don’t want to get my ear chewed. But we’ve had a bit of an interesting week,” Martin said.
“With what has gone on this week, I’m sick to the back teeth with it to be honest. The only good thing I can drag out of it is the whole Mugen thing. I ask myself why am I doing it and then I say, ‘well I’m on a Mugen’, and that’s a good reason for doing it.
“If I get the chance to come back on the Mugen then yeah, but for owt else then I think I need to have a bit of a rethink. The TT’s great, but you can never forget that it is only a motorbike race,” he added.
“I only got two laps in practice on the Mugen because I’d come off (in the Superbike race) and I didn’t go out… I don’t know if I’ve come off, or is that the right word?”
A possible outing on the Honda at the Southern 100 was mooted, but never materialised. Martin’s association with Honda ended weeks later.
Somewhat ironically, his final TT race in the Zero event produced a runner-up finish, with Martin once again falling short of an elusive Manx triumph.