Ipswich, Suffolk - On their first day together at Honda Road Racing’s UK headquarters, lead rider John McGuinness and new team-mate Guy Martin got down to talking business, covering all the important stuff like tea, beer, who’s faster on a mountain bike - and who’s the more determined to nail a win at the 2017 Isle of Man TT on the new Honda CBR1000RR SP2 - McGuinness his 24th or Martin his first.
The two riders could hardly be more different, but each has immense respect for the other, both stressing that they have always been able to trust each other on the roads even when they were dicing wheel to wheel.
McGuinness, 44, is from Morecambe in Lancashire on England’s northwest coast, married with two children and a solid team player. He has been with Honda for many years and regards the crew as his second family.
He has 23 TT wins to his credit, second only to the great Joey Dunlop, and is regarded as the greatest living exponent of international championship racing on public roads - yet few people outside the sport know who he is.
Martin is 35, single and still lives near where he was born in Grimsby, Lincolnshire, on the east coast of England. He’s a self-confessed loner who speaks his mind, sometimes to his own detriment and always to the delight of his thousands of fans.
He has achieved 16 podium finishes on the Isle of Man, always as a privateer, but has never won a TT - although he shares with Dunlop the distinction of having won the South-West 100 road race three years in a row.
After being featured - rather reluctantly - in a 2009 ITV4 documentary on the Isle of TT races, explaining in precise engineering terms exactly how to pour a cup of tea and why, he became a cult figure, starring in a string of television features about extreme sports and engineering.
Despite the money it brings in, he doesn’t see television (or road racing, for that matter) as a ‘real job’ and refuses to give up his full-time occupation as a diesel mechanic at a Volvo dealership in his home town. He struggles to deal with being a public figure, and when he was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, a mild form of autism, merely responded, “It just confirms why I do certain things in a certain way”.
He broke two thoracic vertebra, his sternum, several ribs and his right hand in a huge crash while leading the Ulster Grand Prix in August 2015, requiring steel rods to be inserted into his back and a pin in his hand, but booked himself out of hospital after four days to go back to work.
He missed the 2016 TT to take part in a mountain-bike race but still hankers after a TT win - which is why he accepted the ‘works’ ride with Honda, as he explains to McGuinness in the video.