NW200: John McGuinness in successful Castle Combe test

John McGuinness tries out his new Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade SP for size at Castle Combe
John McGuinness tries out his new Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade SP for size at Castle Combe

John McGuinness was back on a motorcycle in anger for the first time in more than six weeks as the Honda star completed a pre-North West 200 test at Castle Combe in Wiltshire.

The 20-time Isle of Man TT winner had his first outing of the season on his new CBR1000RR Fireblade SP and was joined at the shakedown by team-mate Conor Cummins.

McGuinness, who has reverted to the number one plate for the 2014 TT races, admitted he felt his season was ‘over’ after he broke the scaphoid bone in his wrist in an enduro bike crash during pre-season training.

However, it’s now all systems go for the 42-year-old, who is among the favourites for the Vauxhall North West 200 next week, which gets under way with opening practice on Tuesday morning.

“It’s great to get together with my road racing team, who are like family to me. It was looking like we weren’t going to get much done on Wednesday but all of a sudden the sun came out and we got a day’s work done in the afternoon,” McGuinness said.

“I made a massive step forward with regards to getting on the bike after my injury. After my enduro crash I thought my season was over so I’m made up with how good I felt on the bike.

“I’m going home feeling much more confident about the North West and the TT and I can’t wait to ride my Fireblade in anger again.”

McGuinness and Cummins tested a variety of Dunlop tyres at Castle Combe, where the Ramsey rider made his debut for the official Honda roads squad.

“I’m really happy, it’s all gone well, even with the bad weather. We got a full afternoon on track on Wednesday, it was action-packed and we finished on a high,” said Cummins.

“We’ve got a good setting for the North West 200 and I’m really looking forward to getting there now. It was the first time I’d ridden it yesterday and it was just mega.”

Practice for the North West 200 gets under way on Tuesday, with roads closed from 9.15am-2.45pm and again at the same time for final qualifying next Thursday, May 15.

The first three races for the Supersport, Supertwin and Superstock classes will then take place on Thursday evening, with roads closed from 5.15pm.

The final five races will be held on Saturday, May 17 including both feature Superbike events over seven laps (roads close at 10am).

Meanwhile, Pata Honda’s Jonathan Rea maintained his terrific form as the Northern Ireland star headed the times following free practice at Imola in Italy on Friday ahead of the fourth round of the World Superbike Championship.

Rea, a winner last time out at Assen, set the quickest time in 1m 48.147s to lead the way by a few hundredths of a second from reigning world champion Tom Sykes on the factory Kawasaki.

Aprilia riders Marco Melandri and Sylvain Guintoli were the top three. Eugene Laverty, aiming to make amends for a brace of crashes in Assen, was eighth fastest on the Voltcom Crescent Suzuki GSX-R1000, 1.112s off the pace.

In the Supersport class, Ireland’s Jack Kennedy was ninth on the CIA Insurance Honda.