Racing star Guy Martin already back at work after Dundrod crash
Ahead of hosting the Soap Box Derby at Hillsborough - racer and TV presenter Guy Martin reveals he has no fear of losing his life on the open road and now considers Northern Ireland a second home
Racing star and daredevil Guy Martin could be talking about one of his motorcycles or lorries when he's asked about the injuries from his recent crash at Dundrod. Suffice to say, the mechanic and occasional television presenter is a hardy one.
"A few upgrades boy, a couple of rods in my back and my hand has been pinned," he points out. "The team at Belfast were mega - I couldn't have wanted for anything more. Good folk who knew their onions.
"I feel right enough now and am back at work. I couldn't stay in the house all day - it was driving me crackers after two days."
Famous for his dramatic side-burns as much as his speed, the modern-day Heathcliff is coming to Co Down next week, having teamed up with TrustFord, the world's largest dedicated Ford dealership, for its new partnership with youth charity Clubs for Young People (CYP), to host the inaugural Soap Box Derby on Saturday, September 5, at the Hillsborough International Oyster Festival.
At 33, Guy is the holder of the Guinness World Record for the fastest soap box of all time - at a whopping 85mph.
"We were always tinkering with something as kids - my dad helped us build a go kart with a lawnmower engine when I was seven," he recalls. "We had pram wheels and wood before that, built loads of them. I learnt a lot about how stuff worked by building it. I've still got the scars on my hand from drilling out pistons.
"I'm hoping the teams at the Soap Box Derby will build some proper karts. I'm taking the judging seriously."
If he was following doctor's orders, thick-thatched Guy should really still be resting at his new house in Lincolnshire. A very recent addition to the household is his girlfriend, Sharon - "a grand lass", as he describes her - who he met at a moped race. Up until now, he took the ferry to visit Sharon, who worked with a Dublin publishing house and has introduced him to the writings of George Orwell and other provocative authors.
Back in May, amid rumours of retirement, he told a sports magazine that "one day I'll grow up, but I'm not ready yet," citing his yellow Labrador, Nigel, as his only responsibility. Just three months on, it seems that he has changed his tune slightly.
"Sharon lives with me in Lincolnshire now, so that's saved on the diesel," he dead-pans. "Never say never on kids, but I've got enough on with Nigel, the dog, at the moment. He's a Labrador. He likes pheasants but they aren't so keen on him ..."
A sensitive soul, he recently admitted he cried over the break-up with his "very special" ex-girlfriend and admitted he wanted to say sorry for cheating on her.
Meanwhile, Sharon wouldn't need to be high maintenance, as her boyfriend admits he is a workaholic and often has his friends staying over. A full-time lorry mechanic for a company in Grimsby, specialising in Scanias, he takes holidays from work to go racing and he fits his TV presenting around his job, by making up time on the weekends and early mornings.
He cycles to work every day on a variety of routes, about 20 miles each way.
"I do love working - no matter what, I'll always do it. I'm up at five and cycle to work for about six, then get changed into my overalls and crack on. I knock off about five, then into the shed when I get home to do some engines and barrow jobs. You always find time for the things you want to do - you can get up a bit earlier."
The shed is his favourite place in the world, and where he goes to unwind after a long day or a race. He doesn't own a TV, has never watched any of his shows and isn't connected to the internet - although Sharon's arrival could change that.
"After a long day or a race, I go into the shed - I'm not really a Radox and whale-music bloke, but each to their own. And I'm too busy doing other things - for me the internet and TV are just a use of time I could spend elsewhere. I don't watch my own TV stuff back, if people like it that's great, but I do it because I enjoy the challenges," he says.
His 2013 Channel 4 series, Speed with Guy Martin, showed him attempting to beat four world speed records, including one on a bicycle and another on a sledge. His shows draw audiences of millions, and his autobiography topped the bestsellers list for weeks, despite scant publicity and reviews. Friends have commented that he couldn't care less if the TV exposure went away and that the programmes are just an outlet for his relentless enthusiasm. He certainly doesn't court fame, and although appreciative of the support of his fans, he struggles with the attention he gets at motorbike events.
His discomfort led to a diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome - "Not sure how useful that was?" he says. Nowadays he tries to stay away from crowds, but feels he can manage fame better.
"Everyone's got something to deal with and there's always someone worse off," he shrugs. "I've got it easy boy, compared to most folk."
The son of TT motorcycle racer Ian Martin, amiable Guy races Suzuki motorbikes on road racing tracks. He started racing when he crashed on the road aged 18, deciding "everything going in the same direction was a good idea. I've raced on tracks but find them a bit boring. Roads work for me".
He also races in 24-hour mountain bike races, coming second in the British Championship in 2014, and is in the world finals this October.
He was in Northern Ireland in March when he visited the Harley-Davidson showroom in Antrim, which was displaying the bike he built and raced along the dicey Pikes Peak track in Colorado.
Although he started racing motorbikes in England, his road racing career began in Northern Ireland at 20, when he moved here for the summer and worked as a labourer.
"I did all the road races, through the whole of the north and the south of Ireland and loved it. Any chance to get back is great," he says.
"The people are mega. I can't see myself living anywhere else but Lincolnshire, but I do feel at home in Northern Ireland.
"My TAS Tyco BMW team are based at Ballymore - they are the boys and the craic is spot on."
Guy was saddened to hear of the death of 'flying doctor' John Hinds, the trauma specialist, at Skerries race-track outside Dublin - "a really intelligent bloke and huge loss to the sport."
But, as his autobiography title suggests, When You're Dead, You're Dead, the end is not something that preoccupies him, and claims he has never thought "right, this is it; I'm dead", during a hairy moment in racing.
"It's not really like that, just whatever will be will be," he says.
"You know the risks when you race."
He's an admirer of the Dunlop racing dynasty, and is a team mate of Robert's son, William.
"Michael and Robert are both good racers; know them both. William has been my team mate for a few years and I've raced against him and Michael for probably seven or so years now.
"We've had some good battles on track.
"Good old boys and you can't argue with the results from either of them."
Back home, the non-flash racer drives a Ford Transit van, clocking up around 40,000 miles a year, and an old, souped-up 780 BHP Volvo Amazon, which he claims to be the fastest car in the world. He also has a trials motorbike in his lounge.
Let's hope Sharon doesn't mind …
Join Guy at the Soap Box Derby
With a week to go, it’s time to gear up for the inaugural TrustFord Soap Box Derby, taking place at the Hillsborough International Oyster Festival, on Saturday, September 5.
TrustFord has teamed up with road racer Guy Martin, who will be one of the key judges at the event alongside representatives from TrustFord, youth charity Clubs for Young People (CYP), the event’s charity partner, as well as a representative from the Hillsborough International Oyster Festival.
The event will see thrill-seekers of all ages come from across Northern Ireland to compete for a chance to win one of the exciting prizes on offer, including a 14-seater minibus worth more than £25,000.
Teams will have to design and build their own soap box in order to compete in the nail-biting contest, with Guy on hand to meet the entrants and to judge their efforts.
As well as the top prize that is up for grabs, all other category winners will take home a £500 cash prize.
Now in its 23rd year, The Hillsborough International Oyster Festival is one of Northern Ireland’s premier events.
The festival runs from September 1 until September 6. For more information, visit www.hillsboroughoysterfestival.com