May, 25 2013

Alpinestars Interview: John McGuinness

  • Herlings new jersey

What have you been up to recently, apart from doing James Bond viral videos?

I don’t think Daniel Craig has anything to worry about … that spoof video was a bit of banter and loads of fun! These last few months, I’ve been doing tradeshows and bits of publicity. I’ve also been testing and doing a lot of preparation for the TT Legends Team and for the World Endurance commitments I have. I recently tested at the Dunlop track at Mireval in the south of France, which is a track I had never been to, and we also tested at Albacete and Magny-Cours. Then, of course, we competed in the Bol d’Or, which didn’t go too good for us as we had engine trouble after 19 hours.

What’s the secret to endurance riding, assuming there are no problems with the bike?

It’s no secret really but the key is getting three riders who can consistently lap within a second of each other during the race. It sounds ridiculous but it’s simply a case of riding the bike consistently for 24 hours. You need to have great people in the pits and three strong riders who are focused on keeping the bike going for the duration.

What are your feelings about last season? Good?

I would say good, yes. I never thought I would be sat here today with 19 TT wins under my belt. I’m 41 but I feel good and my brain is still in gear. It was the same last season. I was competitive in the British Superbikes in the Superstock 1,000 cc class for Padgett’s Honda, and we won the North West 200 and two TTs and we finished fourth in the Endurance World Championships. It was a thoroughly enjoyable season. The TT last year was the icing on the cake though, winning arguably the most important two races. I’ve won at the TT in almost every class, the 250s, 400s, 600s, and the one that had eluded me for years was the Superstock, so I was very happy. I pushed and pushed on that day to get the victory; it was so important for me and for Honda.

Preparations for this year’s TT are well underway then?

It is pretty much all go at the moment. With the TT you need good people around you. I’ve been riding for Honda since 2006 and I’ve had the same mechanic building my bike since 2006 and the same guy changing my wheels in the pits since 2006; and that consistency, that loyalty, goes a long way. It’s weird, but you can prepare and prepare and prepare for the TT, but it is a race that can throw just about anything at you. So, you need passionate people around you to go to the TT.

I never try to make predictions or goals for the TT, because for me that’s when it all starts to go wrong. I want to be fast, I want to be safe, I want to enjoy it and I want to come home in one piece. And when you think like that normally the results happen for you. It’s all about having the experience. You can go to short circuits and bash into everyone and swap paint with them, but the TT has to be more calculated. Only experience of it can tell you this. The TT is 107 years old. It captivates people, it grabs hold of you and you can’t go back on it. For me I just love being on my bike. I could have a race around this car park right now or I could be going for a spin around Donington - it doesn’t matter to me. I just love being on my bike.

With the TT, you’ve got every different type of corner and weather condition and there is such a feeling of satisfaction when you win one. There’s no feeling quite like winning the TT. All the greats have been there, Honda probably wouldn’t be where it is today if it weren’t for the TT; they wanted to race in the biggest, hardest challenge in the world. The TT has survived two world wars and it is because of this heritage that the TT has got a place in the hearts of many people.

What has been your best performance at the TT?

It is hard to say, really. I’ve done the treble twice, in 2004 and 2006. Obviously my first TT was a bit special. The TT centenary year in 2007 was special because I did the first 130 mph lap. I remember coming into the winner’s enclosure and getting rapturous applause because people had seen their first 130mph lap. Murray Walker was even in the pit-lane and he was crying! He had witnessed the first 80mph lap and 90mph lap, 100mph lap, etc, and he told me that he thought he would never see the first 130mph lap in his lifetime. That was a special moment.

Some of the races where I’ve really had to work hard have been very satisfying, like the time in 2008 when I was wheel to wheel, lap after lap, with Cameron Donald. I kept pushing but I couldn’t break him, but he broke down on the last lap and I won. That was a good feeling.

What would you be doing if you were not doing what you are now?

I love off-road bikes, and I would love to have been a speedway rider. But I’m a bit weird really, I’m not interested in anything else. You ask what would I be doing, well I don’t like football, cricket or tennis. If I have any free time I’ll be on my Enduro bike or my motocross bike or my quad, or renovating an old bike. There’s nothing I’d rather be, except maybe a porn star. [At this point in the interview John turns to ask his wife, Becky, if she thinks he has the credentials to be a porn star; she declines to answer…]

Thanks, John. One last question: what’s your favorite piece of Alpinestars kit?

It has to be the leathers. In general it’s a combination of things, the amazing equipment and service from the guys in here in Asolo. I like the Alpinestars under-layers for road and off-road and Enduro. But really the important thing is the leathers; that’s the crucial thing between the road and my arse. The weird thing about the leathers is that you feel really naked, because they fit and are cut so well. It is really special to be involved in the Alpinestars set-up. It’s a bit of a kid’s dream. When you are younger and you see your heroes, the world champions wearing all this gear and you think to yourself, I’d like to wear that. See

John is in action at the Isle of Man TT, which kicks off this Saturday, 25th May