Always chasing the next buzz
Guy Martin isn’t your average motorcycle racer. He might be a pro, but is anything but full-time, splitting his year mostly between his other somewhat contrasting jobs – truck fitter and TV star – while doing a bit of decorating and harvesting on the side. You could say he likes to keep busy.
He certainly likes a challenge. His latest obsession is 24-hour mountain-bike racing… solo 24-hour mountain-bike racing.
“I like the mental side of it, trying to break myself mentally,” he says cheerily. “Do I sleep? No I don’t, I just stop every four or five hours for maybe two or three minutes.”
It is this ceaseless quest for the next buzz that makes Martin the man he is. If he was an engine, he would be a two-stroke 500 V4, churning out 400 horsepower per litre.
Although it is his TV appearances – in documentaries like The Boat That Guy Built and Speed with Guy Martin – that have made him famous, he is best known in motor sport for his exploits on road circuits, most famously the Isle of Man TT.
Martin doesn’t shirk the danger question when talking about the TT. In fact he is alarmingly frank about the allure of racing’s most dangerous event. “It’s quite easy to kill yourself at the TT and that’s the reason I do it,” he says. “I’m not as wild as I look; it’s all in control, so if I do kill meself, it’ll be because something’s gone wrong.”
In fact Martin did come close to killing himself when he overstepped the mark at the 160mph Ballagarey right-hander (nicknamed Ballascary) during the 2010 Senior TT. He emerged from the fireball of a crash with bruised lungs and minor fractures to his upper spine.
“I crashed because I was pushing beyond the line. And I’ll push over the line this year, if it’s necessary, because there are times and places to do that, but everything I do is controlled and calculated.”
This year’s TT – race week runs from May 31 to June 6 – is Martin’s 11th and he goes into the event still without a win. The 32-year-old from Lincolnshire has been on course for victory on several occasions, only to break down; few places are more punishing on machinery than the historic 37-mile road course.
However, some onlookers suggest that Martin’s failure to win a TT has more to do with his insatiable hunger for other challenges. It’s an accusation he takes on the chin. “Maybe that’s why I’ve not won a TT, because I’ve not channelled all my energy into it,” he says.
“I still want to win one, but more than anything I just love riding the course. You go to the TT and that first night of practice you’re thinking, ‘This is why I do it, this is why I race motorcycles’. It’s the speed, you’re licking on and it’s how long you’ve got it wide open in top, then you’re on the side of the tyres, revs rising. And then there are the smells of the different parts of the course: wild garlic on the run to Ballaugh, the fresh air on the Mountain. There is nothing like it.”
Only one thing spoils Martin’s enjoyment of the Island: his celebrity status. He is now the Valentino Rossi of the roads and struggles with the constant adulation.
“I can’t have five minutes to myself. I want to sit in the awning with my guys, tinker with the bike but I can’t.”
His escape route from the hubbub is unusual, to say the least. “I’ve got a job so I can get off the bike and get away from the pits. Last year I painted a bloke’s garage in Jurby and this year I’m painting his house. That way I can switch off: paint the wall, paint the wall. I’ve got to be doing something, got to be something …”
Short circuits no longer hold any appeal for Martin. “In the summer I do a bit of work on a farm near Cadwell Park. A few years back I was practising at a British Superbike meeting and I could see the farm as I went into the hairpin. As much as I love riding motorbikes, I’d genuinely rather be in a tractor getting the harvest in than doing a BSB round.”
Martin’s next challenge after the TT is the Pikes Peak hill climb; yes, another crazy challenge. “I’m right into the oddball stuff,” he says, as if we hadn’t already worked that out.
He will contest the Colorado event on his home-built, turbocharged Suzuki GSX-R1100, filmed by Channel 4 cameras. “I could do it on my TT superbike, but that’d be the easy option, that’d be cheating. I like what Sébastien Loeb did there last year. If I can rock up with my bike, which is a rare thing, and have a go, it’ll be mint.”
After that he’s got his eyes on the nine-day TransRockies mountain bike race. “That’s the next thing: multi-day stuff, camping every night. Proper!”
Marc Marquez continues to make history in MotoGP. When the 21-year-old reigning champion won the recent Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez he became the first man in 43 years to win the first four races of the season from pole position. The last man to do that was Giacomo Agostini, way back in 1971.
Agostini is still the only rider to have won every race of a premier-class season.
The legendary Italian won all 10 rounds of the 1968 championship aboard his three-cylinder MV, competing mostly against Matchless and Norton singles. That year his victory margin in all but one of the races was at least a minute.
Ago could have gone on to repeat his full house over the next three seasons but instead he would take a clean sweep of victories to secure the title before swanning off to the Bahamas, leaving the also-rans to squabble over the scraps at the last few races.