Ulster team owner Ryan Farquhar has struck a deal with Isle of Man TT legend John McGuinness to ride for his KMR/IEG Kawasaki team in the Bennetts Lightweight TT.
McGuinness joins multiple podium finisher Peter Hickman, who finished on the rostrum in third place on one of Farquhar’s ER650cc machines last year.
The duo will lead a four-rider line-up, with Mullingar’s Derek McGee and former Moto3 Grand Prix prospect Danny Webb bolstering the ranks.
Morecambe Missile McGuinness, who will race the factory Norton in the Superbike and Senior races, will be making his debut in the class at the TT and also at the North West 200.
He hasn’t raced since he was injured in a crash at the North West last year, but McGuinness is on the road to recovery and recently had the external fixator cage removed from his injured right leg.
His previous contractual obligations at Honda prevented him from competing on a Supertwin but the 45-year-old says Farquhar’s Dungannon-based outfit was always his number one choice.
“I raced against Ryan for many years and I know how driven he is to win, his machine preparation is second to none,” said McGuinness.
“I’ve never had the chance to ride the Lightweight class on a Supertwin bike before, but when the opportunity came around, I knew that my first choice would be to ride one of Ryan Farquhar’s bikes.
“I’m really looking forward to my debut.”
Farquhar told the News Letter he has long coveted the prospect of McGuinness riding for his privateer team in the Supertwin class.
“I’m over the moon with the line-up and I’ve always joked with John about riding one of my bikes since the Supertwin race began at the TT.
“It was never possible before with his commitments with Honda but things have now obviously changed. Having raced against John, I’ve seen the way that he has rode the Paton at the Classic TT and that would be the closest thing to the Supertwin, so I know he will be able to ride it hard – he is definitely in with a realistic chance of getting another TT win,” he added.
“Peter Hickman did a fantastic job last year and our bikes are more competitive than they were last year, they are lighter and have more power. Peter has another year’s experience on the bike under his belt and he can’t be ruled out.
“Derek doesn’t have that much experience at the TT but he is still capable of getting a good result and Danny Webb was going really well in practice last year, although we had a problem with his fuel pump and then he had that mishap on the Superstock bike [crash at Laurel Bank].”
Farquhar hailed his four-pronged line-up for the TT as a ‘dream team’ and said he felt immense pride that riders of the calibre of McGuinness and Hickman were eager to ride his meticulously prepared Kawasaki machines.
“I’m really excited and the four riders we have make for a very strong team: a few are capable of winning and a few are strong contenders for the top eight.
“It’s a dream team for me and in the past I’ve had Michael Rutter and Jeremy McWilliams on the podium at the North West, but going to the TT this year I am really excited with the team we have,” said Farquhar, who hasn’t raced since he was involved in a life-threatening crash in the Supertwin race at the North West 200 in 2016.
“It’s a fairy tale because we’re only a small privateer team and 95 per-cent of the work is done in-house. To have these lads wanting to ride my bikes makes me really proud.
“To be in the position we are in going to the TT this year is pretty special.”
Smiths BMW rider Hickman, who finished on the podium in all five solo races at the TT last year, has set his sights on a prestigious win in June.
“I really enjoyed riding for KMR Kawasaki last year. I didn’t have much experience of riding the bike and qualifying was ruined by the weather so we went into the race on the back foot a little bit, but it is a testament to Ryan and his team that we were able to bring the bike home on the podium,” Hickman said.
“Ryan has been developing the bike through the winter and with a bit more time on it I’d like to think we can stand a step or two higher on the podium.”
The News Letter understands that Farquhar is in talks with a fifth rider to join his team, who is also a proven winner at the TT.