Guy Martin’s smarting, but he’s far from being finished
Thursday’s Ulster Grand Prix practice session was heavily punctuated by stoppages and red flag incidents, but as is so often the case, the one that resonates most with fans and media — to the unfair detrement of the rest — is when a high profile competitor is involved.
They come no bigger than maverick racer Guy Martin, whose TV celebrity status has seen him break all boundaries, becoming a household name throughout the UK and beyond — indeed a huge swathe of hs fan base is unaware that he even races motorcycles.
That’s exactly what the Tyco BMW rider was doing when he came to grief whilst leading the final lap of the Dundrod 150 Superbike race on Thursday evening at Ireland’s corner, in a 100mph incident.
But for enhanced safety precautions, cult figure Guy might not have escaped as comparitively lightly, even though he remains in the Royal Victoria Hospital with a broken chestbone, ribs and vertebrae.
His accident happened at a part of the Dundrod circuit which sadly claimed the life of Steve Johnson back in 1992.
Martin is unmistakably the biggest name in road racing since the days of Giacomo Agostini, Mike Hailwood and Joey Dunlop and even though he’s yet to win a coveted Isle of Man TT — despite standing on 14 podiums — paradoxically, his success rate at Dundrod is second to none.
Speaking only hours before his crash, the 11-time Ulster Grand Prix winner said of the 7.4-mile circuit and its lap speeds in excess of 133mph: “I’m certainly not pushing any harder just because there’s run-off nowadays. I have always pushed hard at Dundrod and the run-off doesn’t encourage me to go any faster.”
Quite ironic, given the circumstances just hours later, Martin didn’t run out of road or talent on Thursday night — it was a wicked high-side, where his tyre simply lost traction momentarily before re-gripping, which resulted in the Lincolnshire racer being ejected in the crudest of fashions.
In years gone by, Martin would have hurtled into a bank and his machine would more than likely have come back out onto the circuit and taken second placed man and eventual winner Bruce Anstey with it.
Major improvements to circuit safety allowed Martin the luxury of the aforementioned run-off — similar to a short circuit event — and his injuries, were simply down to decelerated impact with the ground, as he tumbled into an open field.
The Dundrod and District Motor Club must be commented for their foresight, as Martin’s team manager at Tyco BMW, Philip Neill explained.
“Guy was well aware that Bruce Anstey wasn’t that far behind him and was eager to get a good run out of Ireland’s Corner to set him up for his favourite part of the track on that last lap,” he said.
“Unfortunately he got caught out by the high-side, which has ended his Ulster Grand Prix for 2015, but full credit must go to the organisers for the improved safety measures at the circuit.”
Typical of the enigmatic lorry mechanic, he was asking just one question from his hospital bed: “Will I be able to go to work on Monday?”
And as his sister Kate also explained from his bedside: “He told us to bugger off on Thursday night and he would see us in the morning. He’s a tough cookie.”
The Metzeler Ulster Grand Prix was scheduled to be Martin’s final appearance on the roads this season, such is the nature of his ever-growing diary of commitments in other areas.
Later this year he has a land speed world record attempt pencilled in, not forgetting a televised attempt at breaking the 100mph barrier for the first time in history on the wall of death — which is basically a legendary carnival attraction where a motorcycle is ridden around a wooden cylinder, held in place only by centrifugal force.
A scary prospect indeed, to which Martin has commented: “No one has ever died on the wall of death despite its title; let’s hope I’m not the first!”
Whether this latest setback will put an indefinite embargo on those events and Martin’s road racing career is anyone’s guess. It was rumoured that he was considering retirement at the end of this season, but having spent considerable time in his company these past few months, I think there are still quite a few two-wheeled racing adventures high on his bucket list — with an Isle of Man TT win, still hovering around the summit.