TT 2022: New milestone looms for John McGuinness but podium for 23-time winner now looks to be out of reach

There isn’t much that John McGuinness hasn’t achieved at the Isle of Man TT, but the Morecambe man is poised to reach a new milestone when he lines up for his 100th start at the iconic festival in Saturday’s six-lap RST Superbike race.

By Kyle White
Friday, 3rd June 2022, 3:56 pm

Now 50 years-old, McGuinness is riding again for Honda Racing UK after his relationship with the manufacturer soured following a crash on the previous model of the Fireblade Superbike at the North West 200 in 2017, which was caused by an unexpected throttle blip due to an issue with the ECU.

Few thought the 23-time TT winner would ever be reunited with Honda, but when Honda UK took over the management of the team from Honda Europe with Havier Beltran in charge, it paved the way for a return and McGuinness – who was left deflated after a doomed association with Stuart Garner’s Norton enterprise on his TT return in 2019 – was persuaded to go back to the manufacturer where he has enjoyed the lion’s share of his success around the Mountain Course.

The agreement made perfect sense for both parties: Honda is celebrating the 30th anniversary of its ultra-successful Fireblade and with McGuinness back on board and carrying the number one plate for his 100th TT start, the PR appeal is a marketing dream.

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John McGuinness on the Honda Racing UK Fireblade at Molyneux's during practice for the Isle of Man TT.

For McGuinness, the Honda deal offers stability and a guaranteed income for the next two years after the Norton debacle, plus the chance to be reunited with the latest incarnation of the Fireblade CBR1000RR-R SP.

Seven years on from his last victory at the TT in the 2015 Senior – undoubtedly one of his best after he had been written off during race week – you get the sense that McGuinness wants to be back on the podium at least one more time after six largely barren years.

His last competitive outing at the TT was in 2016, a long time ago in racing terms, with McGuinness missing 2017 and 2018 through injury and failing to finish in the Superbike or Senior races on the Norton when the event was last held in 2019.

By his own admission, that is not how McGuinness wants his TT career to end.

But after such a long gap since he was running consistently fast laps on a Superbike, will McGuinness’s unrivalled experience and Honda familiarity be enough to give him the satisfactory ending he is looking for?

A Superbike or Senior podium would be an exceptional result for McGuinness at this stage in his illustrious career, but for that to happen he will surely have to be finishing ahead of one or more of Peter Hickman, Dean Harrison, Michael Dunlop, Davey Todd and Conor Cummins.

It’s a huge ask, and time is no longer on McGuinness’s side, yet it’s possible there is still one more special performance left in the TT’s second most successful rider ever.

He has been building his pace steadily throughout practice week and on Thursday evening lapped at 129.278mph, which left him sixth in the Superbike session.

But McGuinness will need to improve on that significantly on Saturday to have any prospect of the top three. Realistically, a top-six result is a more likely target and even that would be a solid achievement now for ‘McPint’.

His chance of matching Joey Dunlop’s record 26 victories has been and gone, but John McGuinness earned his place in the TT hall of fame long ago and stories of his exploits will be told for years after he hangs up his leathers for good.