Belfast Telegraph

North West 200: TV star Guy Martin has a whole lot more in the tank

By Paul Lindsay

We've had the Dunlop Dynasty and four-time World Superbike champion and current King of the Jungle Carl Fogarty on the entry list at the International North West 200, but Lincolnshire truck mechanic come world-renowned TV star Guy Martin is the biggest name on this year's grid.

He has yet to win a race here at the 8.9-mile Triangle, but his appeal spreads far and wide - well beyond the boundaries of the two-wheel aficionados and the North West cognoscenti.

Brand Guy Martin is now a global phenomenon, and when you're tipped by millions to take over from Jeremy Clarkson on Top Gear, well, it's fair to say you've arrived on the scene.

This week, Martin's focus will be on his stable of Tyco BMW Motorrad machinery, under the TAS Racing team's awning, which sits in pole position at the North West paddock.

The talk of TV shows and high-profile presenting jobs still embarrass the 33-year-old, and when quizzed about the show, he replies: "It's not really my thing. I don't think I'll be presenting Top Gear. But we're here to talk bikes."

Looking to keep him on the ropes as we chewed the fat over a cup of tea, I used one word - retirement.

Then came his thousand-yard stare and deathly silence, before he replied: "I did the press day at Donington Park a few weeks ago and it was 10 deep at the back of the garage and I was thinking, 'I'm making a phone call, this is it. I can't be bothered with this. What am I doing this for?'" referring to his first test ride with the Smiths' team - he is scheduled to ride their Supersport machine at this year's Isle of Man TT Races.

"Then I thought, 'I don't want to let Philip (Neil, Tyco BMW boss) down'. I love riding my bike but I can't be bothered with all the rubbish really. I really couldn't be mithered.

"I was about to make that phone call, then I came to Cookstown and the Northern Ireland crowd have manners. Yes, they want a lot of things signing and others want a lot of things doing, but they always respect me," said Martin of his Irish fan base.

Cutting him back to the all-important question that has been circulating for months, and used by others to market their events, I simply asked if this will be his last North West 200.

"After the first lap of practice at Cookstown I thought, 'where am I ever going to beat this sort of buzz?'"

Still thinking of how to tackle the answer, he said in his typical northern dialect: "It's the mither, the mither," referring to the hassle of it all.

"Work is a big thing for me and I've taken a year off filming.

"I've a lot of other things I'd like to do and if they don't clash with my racing and Philip is happy to let me do less, then I can't see me calling it a day permanently just yet. But we will see," was how he ended that particular conversation, with that trademark wide-mouthed smile.

He is a reluctant celebrity and racing allows him to simply be Guy Martin the truck mechanic from Grimsby, but not as much these days as his beloved mountain biking, which is what could effectively replace the racing buzz long-term.

"There's so much I still want to do and I'm planning on doing the Tour Divide next year, which is the toughest mountain bike time trial on the planet," he said of the 2,745-mile route in North America.

"It starts the week after the TT, so I would need to be there preparing that entire week."

Martin's preparation for the 2016 event has already started (he's going back out in July), leaving him as an almost definite non-starter at next year's TT Races - but not necessarily the North West 200.

One thing Martin will be filming this year is a short-sharp 10 minute live programme where he will attempt to break the 100mph barrier on the Wall of Death.

He explained: "We are building a bike for it and are well into that project and work is very busy."

But what about this week's North West? Is he simply here to make up the numbers in Hector and Philip Neill's Tyco BMW squad or is he really up for mounting a top step challenge?

"Wash your mouth out," he jokes. "Of course I'm here to win. I'm not coming to waste fuel and tyres. We've had a few good results this year on the BMW.

"The whole mass start doesn't worry me as I've shown with plenty of wins at Scarborough and the Ulster Grand Prix, so let's just see what happens on Saturday," he said as another cup of tea was brewed and off he bounced.

Whether he returns is anyone's guess, but win or lose, we'll be writing about Guy Martin for years to come and that enigmatic and energetic shot in the arm he administered to the international road racing paddocks.

Belfast Telegraph


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