Guy Martin’s return to road racing certainly came as a shock when he was unveiled as Honda Racing’s second rider for the season, but there could well be a fair few twists and turns along the road before the fan favourite can even begin to think about achieving his one sole aim: to seal his first Isle of Man TT victory.
After more than a year out of the saddle – or at least professional racing as he pursued commitments away from the track both on television and on his bicycle – Martin will make his full return in Thursday’s opening North West 200 races, but the ride to Northern Ireland’s famous coastal track has not been without it’s bumps.
For starters, Martin arrives at Honda at the same time as the new Fireblade CBR1000RR SP2, a bike that is evidently in need of some development. During Tuesday’s opening qualifying sessions, Martin was nearly 14 seconds off the fastest superbike lap time, set by Alastair Seeley, while his Superstock times were not much better.
“It’s a new model of bike you see, and it’s good that I rode it at Scarborough because that gave me a good comparison to the previous bikes I’ve ridden because up until then all the tracks were either new to me,” Martin told The Independent ahead of the North West 200.
“So just getting my eye in, and thinking ‘was it me being rusty’, I haven’t ridden for over a year, or was it the bike? It was good to go to Scarborough and get a good benchmark. We have got a lot of work to do, there’s nothing majorly wrong with the bike, it’s just getting everything to work together, getting everything to gel, which is why you get days like today. So did Scarborough and Tandragee, did two days [at Castle Combe] at the start of April, and before then we were in Spain for four days.”
He added: “We won’t really know [where we are] until we get there. We’re just trying to get everything pulling in the same direction, we’re getting all these areas of the bike, it feels a bit like a union, they’re all sticking to their own and fighting each other, we want everything working together in the same direction. The electrical system isn’t working with the clutch system and the throttle system isn’t working with the suspension system and it’s all making it confusing. It’s just getting all the little problems ironed out. Some of the problems, not a lot of them but some of them, are me altering or refining my style to try and help all these areas.”
Martin arrives at Honda at the same time as the new Fireblade (Getty)
Well, the news wasn’t great after the first day of racing in Northern Ireland. Both Martin and his Honda teammate, John McGuinness, were a long way off the pace, and Martin did himself no favours in a television interview where he confirmed his attendance is “a means to an end” and to “get a few signatures” ahead of his main target, the Isle of Man TT, just two years after labelling the North West track…