Retro Rewind: John McGuinness wins maiden Isle of Man TT in 1999 Lightweight race

John McGuinness set the ball rolling on his incredible Isle of Man TT career with his maiden triumph in the 1999 Lightweight race.

Wednesday, 9th June 2021, 6:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 9th June 2021, 10:06 am

The Morecambe man went on to chalk up 23 victories to become a legend of the Mountain Course and is currently the second most successful rider ever in the history of the event behind Ulsterman Joey Dunlop who won 26 times.

With the TT cancelled for a second successive year, we have dipped into the archives to reflect on some milestone moments from the event.

After making his TT debut in 1996, McGuinness celebrated his debut victory in style just three years later, smashing Ian Lougher’s longstanding lap record from 1990 to cap a magnificent performance on the TSR250 Vimto Honda.

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John McGuinness flies through Ballaspur on his way to victory in the Lightweight TT, his first Isle of Man win in 1999.

The 27-year-old arrived on the Isle of Man as the leader of the 250cc British Championship – which he later won – in Paul Bird’s team and set the pace throughout practice, raising expectations over his prospects of a first TT win.

Northern Ireland’s Joey Dunlop was bidding for a sixth straight victory in the class on the Bertie Payne Honda, but the Ballymoney rider got a fright on the opening lap when fellow countryman James Courtney crashed in front of him at Greeba Castle.

Dunlop later admitted he had ‘no interest whatsoever’ in the race following the incident and finished in fifth after a steady ride.

McGuinness, though, would have taken some beating on the day after the English rider shattered Lougher’s nine-year-old lap record from a standing start, setting a new benchmark of 117.88mph – bettering Lougher’s previous standard by 0.8 seconds.

He also established a new race record for the four-lap event of 1h 17m 32s at an average speed of 116.79mph.

McGuinness, who wrapped up a commanding success by 33.4 seconds from Welshman Jason Griffiths (Dennis Trollope Yamaha), described the first of his 23 TT wins as ‘a dream come true’.

“I’m delighted, what can I say. It’s a dream come true and I’ve been coming across here since about 1982 to watch and I’ve always dreamed of winning a TT, and it’s finally come,” he told Manx Radio’s Geoff Cannell immediately after the race.

“I can’t begin to explain how good this bike is that Honda have given me this year. Paul Bird and the team have worked so hard over the winter to get this kit machine and the bike never missed a beat.

“I just went for it from the start, I knew my tyres were warm, and I really went for it. I caught Owen (McNally) on the first lap, then I caught Gavin (Lee) and I just kept my head down and really enjoyed the race.”

Gavin Lee, who set off at number one on another of Dennis Trollop’s TZ250 Yamaha machines, completed the top three, a further 22.5 seconds behind, with Denis McCullough the leading Northern Ireland rider in fourth ahead of Dunlop.

On the opening lap, McGuinness – running the number four plate – had caught Coleraine man McNally (Bob Mullan Aprilia) on the road by the time they reached Glen Helen.

His advantage was only two seconds over Scotsman Jim Moodie on the Honda UK RS250, with Ian Lougher (Sabre Honda) a further three seconds back on corrected time.

Joey, shaken by Courtney’s crash a few miles up the road, was in joint ninth place along with Co Down’s Gary Dynes.

At the end of the lap, McGuinness had extended his lead to almost seven seconds over Moodie and he increased his lead even further on lap two, when a quick-shifter issue cost Moodie time, dropping the Glaswegian to 12th at Glen Helen.

Griffiths was now up to second place, 16 seconds adrift of the race leader, with Dynes moving into third by one second from Lougher and McCullough in fifth, three seconds back.

After the pit-stops at the end of lap two, McGuinness was in control by 26 seconds from Griffiths, who was clear of Dynes in third. Lee was only a second behind Dynes, with Lougher and McCullough the top six.

McGuinness refused to slacken the pace and had 34 seconds in hand over Griffiths at the end of lap three, with Dynes a further 10 seconds behind in third.

On the final lap, McGuinness managed his pace to bring the Vimto Honda home safely for a dream debut TT victory ahead of Griffiths, although there was huge disappointment for Ulsterman Dynes, who slipped to sixth after holding third for much of the race.

Lee rounded out the rostrum ahead of McCullough, with Dunlop taking fifth. Moodie was a retirement from the race.

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