Guy Martin must have thought he'd seen the last of boats and rivers for some time as his BBC hit series The Boat That Guy Built finished last month.
But last night found him back on deck on Belfast's river Lagan, helping promote the final countdown to Relentless North West 200 race week which roars off the grid this weekend.
Never ones to miss a photo opoprtunity, the North West PR team booked the moored Lagan barge restaurant MV Confiance, by the Waterfront Hall, to make the most of the TAS Relentless Suzuki rider's new-found fame.
Fans' favourite Martin is also the star of the cinema box office hit TT3D Closer To The Edge, the high-octane story of his Isle of Man TT adventure last summer.
But there are signs the free spirit from Lincolnshire is becoming concerned he has created a monster — everyone now seems to want a piece of an essentially private, if eccentric, individual who'd just rather be on his bike.
Over four million viewers followed his quirky quest to restore an old narrow boat in The Boat That Guy Built and most didn't even know he races bikes at 200mph in his other life.
“I've done the TV and film thing, had a great time, got to stay in a posh £1,000 a night London hotel for the premiere, but it’s done now — time to move on,” he said.
“I didn't go out looking to be on the telly or in movies — the makers sort of stumbled across me.
“Racing bikes is what gives me my biggest buzz. I'm a racer and I want to win.”
The 29-year-old had his first outing on his new GSX-R Suzukis at the Cookstown 100 weeks ago, taking three podium finishes and a setting new outright lap record of 90.932mph.
Guy added: “We learnt a lot about the bikes without taking any unnecessary risks with the North West coming up. We're making progress and I'm hopeful of a first North West win.”
Philip Neill, manager of the Moneymore-based TAS team, echoed his rider's confidence, saying: “Guy pretty much exceeded our expectations at Cookstown and it was good to see how he handled himself on GSX-R machinery for the first time on the roads.
“While we are still working on making little improvements to the bikes, we are pretty much ready for the North West 200.”
Guy was joined on board the Belfast barge by TAS team-mate Alastair Seeley, from Carrick, and Ducati rider Michael Rutter, a North West folk hero for his record-breaking speed exploits.
They heard Race Director Mervyn Whyte confirm over 300 entries on the grid for the Saturday, May 21 spectacular featuring two Superbike and two Supersport classes and a Supertock race all run over six laps.
“We’re delighted to welcome new and seasoned riders from all over the world including France, Switzerland, Holland, Italy and Hungary as well as USA, New Zealand and Australia and all the home nations,” reported Mervyn.
“Among the top competitors are MSS Colchester Kawasaki riders Stuart Easton and Gary Mason, Michael Rutter and Martin Jessopp of Riders Bathams Ducati, Relentless duo Alastair Seeley and Guy Martin as well as Ryan Farquhar and Sandor Bitter riding for KMR Kawasaki.
“Also on the grid are Wilson Craig riders Cameron Donald and William Dunlop, Steve Mercer and Jeremy Toye from Sondel Racing and Street Sweep rider Michael Dunlop.”
A full schedule of events kicks off this Saturday with the first round of the Mini Motos RCI All Ireland Championship, and a special charity walk round the 8.9 mile circuit in aid of Davy Boyle’s Caring Caretaker organisation.
Also launched last night was the event’s biggest single source of income, the £15 race programme.
Publisher Paul Lindsay said: “As a motorcycling fan, I personally feel very proud to be part of an event, where as a boy I chased autographs from my heroes Tom Heron, Joey Dunlop and Mick Grant.
“It’s been a pleasure working with Mervyn Whyte and his team thus far and this year, I'd like to give special thanks to Gillian Lloyd for her unwavering support.”
First practice for the North West is next Tuesday night, followed by Thursday’s daytime practice, when roads on the triangle circuit will be closed.