NW200: Mervyn Whyte refuses to rule out prospect of John McGuinness racing Norton in May

John McGuinness completed a parade lap on the Norton SG7 at the Isle of Man TT last year.
John McGuinness completed a parade lap on the Norton SG7 at the Isle of Man TT last year.
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North West 200 Event Director Mervyn Whyte has refused to rule out the possibility of John McGuiness racing the iconic Norton at the 90th anniversary event in May.

Morecambe man McGuinness is eager to race the British machine at the international road race as he plots his return to the Isle of Man TT, where he is the second most successful rider ever with 23 victories behind Ulsterman Joey Dunlop (26).

Morecambe's John McGuinness is eager to race the Norton at the North West 200 in May.

Morecambe's John McGuinness is eager to race the Norton at the North West 200 in May.

The 46-year-old hoped to make his TT comeback last year, but an injury setback forced him to put his plans on ice. He completed a parade lap on the Norton SG7 but McGuinness later made a victorious return to the Mountain Course at the Classic TT, where he won the Senior race on Roger Winfield’s Paton last August.

Under current FIM rules, the Norton is not permitted to race at the North West, but race chief Whyte says he hasn’t given up on finding a solution that would enable McGuinness to take his place on the grid in the Superbike races.

He told the News Letter: “I had a long chat with John over a beer when I was over at the BBC Sports Personality awards before Christmas.

“We run under FIM regulations at the North West and the Norton is not homologated, which requires 100 of the machines to be made.

“But I would certainly love to see the Norton out there and I’m talking to the MCUI technical people around it to see if there is anything we can do.

“From our perspective, we have to be careful about putting out a machine that is not homologated because if something went wrong, then it could backfire on us,” Whyte added.

“I’ve explained that to John but we’re not done and dusted yet and we’ll keep working on it to see if there is any way around it.

“John McGuinness is a big attraction at the North West 200 and he’s been coming to the event for a long time, but the difficulty for me at the present time is the situation with the FIM regulations.”

McGuinness last competed at the North West 200 in 2017, when he suffered a badly broken right leg amongst other injuries in a crash on the Honda Racing Fireblade during practice.

He has missed the TT for the past two years as a result, but the popular English rider is determined to come back stronger that ever in June, when he feels he has a realistic chance of finishing on the podium in the Superbike and Senior races.

Speaking at Motorcycle Live at the NEC last month, McGuinness said: “I’m going to Australia to do a race meeting out there in March on the classic bike but I’ll be niggling in the ear of Stuart Garner at Norton; we’re going to be sticking that Norton in the back of a Transit van and we’re going to be heading where the sun is shining somewhere in Europe and do some laps.

“They’ve agreed to that, I’ve agreed to that and it’s our only option. We have to ride, we have to be sharp and we have to be ready for the TT. I’m looking at a few options in the British championship as well because I miss it; we’ve got some fantastic circuits in this country like Oulton Park, Thruxton, Cadwell Park and Silverstone, so I want to ride as much as I can and be sharp for the TT.

“I need the North West 200 organisers to let Norton race as well – how, when or what I don’t care, I’m not interested in the politics – the Norton will drag a few more thousand people to that North Coast in Ireland to watch that bike,” he added.

“I want to ride there, even if we don’t get any results, but I want to ride there and be sharp for the TT.

“I really do believe that we could stick that Norton on the podium and it’s a realistic result.”