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McGuinness is given green light to showcase new Norton at NW200

Dream machine: John McGuinness testing the new Norton
Dream machine: John McGuinness testing the new Norton

By Roy Harris

The ‘will they or won’t they’ saga surrounding John McGuinness racing the new Norton Superbike at next week’s North West 200 has ended with the British manufacturer announcing the six-times north coast winner will compete after all.

McGuinness will ride the SG8 Superbike on its first appearance in Ireland, another major attraction for bike fans. The 47-year-old will also race the new 650cc Superlight bike in both Supertwin events on Thursday and Saturday of next week.

Norton had hoped to run their new V4 1200cc engine in the SG8 Superbike at the North West and TT but the regulations prohibit machines of more than 1000cc capacity.

The manufacturer has now returned to the 1000cc V4 Aprilia motor which had been used previously, enabling North West crowd favourite McGuinness to compete and showcase the bike.

“It has taken a lot of sorting out but it has all come together at the eleventh hour,” McGuinness said as he returns to the venue where he broke a leg in a 2017 practice crash. The injury has seen him miss the North West for the last two seasons.

The Morecambe racer has been intensively testing the Norton over the past couple of months.

“I was at Rockingham last week and have been banging in the miles at Bruntingthorpe, Anglesey, Cadwell, Croft, Castle Combe and Oulton,” McGuinness explained.

“I’ve had to be patient and it has been a long wait but now I can’t wait to get stuck in at the North West.”

McGuinness says he is happy with the performance of the Norton Superbike after over a decade of racing Hondas.

“I matched the times I did on the Honda when we tested at Castle Combe so the bike isn’t a million miles away,” he said.

“The engine is more powerful and the bike has lots of speed and stability. The team is good, the tyres are good and we have been doing the work. I haven’t raced at the North West since I snapped my leg in half two years ago but I am going into the event with an open mind and I am optimistic we can do okay.”

McGuinness admitted to having some nerves about making his UK road racing comeback.

“I am excited but I will be nervous as well, especially going into Primrose where it nearly all ended two years ago. I wouldn’t be human if I wasn’t,” he said.

McGuinness also has entries for both the Supersport and Superstock races at the North West but doesn’t have machinery available at this stage.

“We are delighted to have John, one of the North West’s longest serving riders, back racing with us in the 90th anniversary year,” event director Mervyn Whyte said.

“The Norton will also be a huge attraction for local road racing fans who will have the chance to see and hear the Superbike on the famous Triangle circuit. John will debut the Superlight Norton racer in the Supertwin races which adds even more interest to a class that already enjoys a very impressive line-up for 2019.”

Norton boss Stuart Garner is delighted the factory team is returning to the North West for the first time since the glory years of the early 1990s when Robert Dunlop and Trevor Nation dominated the Superbike races at the event on the black and gold JPS rotary engined machines.

“It is great to take the Norton brand back racing there and to draw a line under what has been a dark chapter in John’s career,” Garner said. “A podium or a top-10 finish would be great.” 

McGuinness will be Norton’s flagbearer on the new Supertwin with his team-mates in the class, Peter Hickman and Davey Todd, sitting out the North West races.

Garner said: “We don’t have time to put together three bikes and don’t want to dilute our effort with John and the new bike.”

With Glenn Irwin, Michael Rutter, Dan Cooper, Jeremy McWilliams, Derek McGee and Stefano Bonetti lining up on the Supertwin grid aboard an array of well sorted Paton and Kawasaki machinery, it will be a stern test for the new Norton.

The 2019 fonaCAB International North West 200, in association with Nicholl Oils, runs from May 12 to 18

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