New Honda Racing signing Guy Martin has been busy bringing himself back up to speed as he builds towards his eagerly anticipated comeback at the Isle of Man TT this year.
The Lincolnshire rider, who will make his roads debut on the Honda Fireblade SP2 Superstock machine this weekend at the Around-A-Pound Tandragee 100, stunned the motorcycling world with a sensational announcement in January that he had signed a deal with Honda boss Neil Tuxworth, joining 23-time TT winner John McGuinness in the official international road racing team.
The 35-year-old has been winding up the wick in his preparations in recent weeks and finally tested his new CBR1000RR SP2 Superbike at Castle Combe in Wilshire.
He then jetted off to Japan with McGuinness, where the duo tested the Mugen Shinden Roku (6) machine they will ride in the TT Zero event in June.
With the start of the Vauxhall International North West 200 less than a month away, time is of the essence to the Honda riders, who are playing catch-up compared to their chief TT rivals.
Team boss Tuxworth, who was instrumental in securing former TAS Racing favourite Martin’s signature, admits the new Honda Superbikes had arrived later than anticipated, but says he has been happy with the progress made by both riders so far.
“Considering the mechanics were still working on them the night before the test we are very happy with the progress we have made over the two days,” said Tuxworth.
“With the road bikes running kit ignition, they are easier to set up than the BSB Superbikes that run the Motec system. We will come back to Castle Coombe in a few weeks’ time and that will be the important test because we will have the full spec operating on both Superbikes.”
Martin – like Hutchinson at Tyco BMW – has made the move to Dunlop tyres for 2017 after running on Metzeler tyres when he was part of the Moneymore-based team from 2011 to 2015.
Meanwhile, Morecambe Missile McGuinness revealed he identified some improvements with the new Honda straight away.
The 44-year-old suffered a dislocated thumb during a crash at Castle Combe, but will be fully fit for the North West.
“It seems easier to match the times that we have done here before with this bike,” McGuinness said.
“It is a new chapter with a new bike and you can’t just rock up and be on it from the word go. I really like the new engine braking system and this bike doesn’t back into corners the way the old bike did on the brakes, so it isn’t as physically demanding to ride.”
McGuinness is adjusting to the new Ohlins suspension the team will run this season after spending years using K-Tech and Showa units.
“Sometimes it is better as a rider not to have options because you can choose the one you know, the safe one,” he said.
“We have to go faster so we have to change and if we can find a little bit more power, which we think we can, then I will be happy.”
Both McGuinness and Martin are set to take part in another test at Castle Combe next week.
Padgetts Honda rider Conor Cummins was ruled out of the recent test after breaking a bone in his right hand in a crash at the BSB meeting at Donington Park. He now faces a race against time to be fit for the NW200.