Isle of Man TT legend John McGuinness has admitted to The Race that the tough decision to call off this year’s race in the face of the coronavirus pandemic was the right one, even though it’s set to make for a difficult future for him personally.
The 23-time TT winner was set to make a big return with Bournemouth Kawasaki at this year’s race after a disaster in 2019 with the ill-fated Norton outfit.
But, with racing called off not only at the TT but also at the North West 200, those plans are now on hold for the foreseeable future.
“I’ve been through it before in 2001 with foot and mouth disease, but I had time on my side then and I don’t really now” :: John McGuinness
“My thoughts go out to everyone who’s suffered with it, and god forbid it escalates to where we can’t control it – we’re in the shit if that happens,” McGuinness told The Race.
“It’s worrying; there’s an element of being a little scared because we don’t know what’s going to happen or anything about it.
“We’re all super selfish in what we do, and we all think ‘ah, it’ll be reet.’ But we’re just a small piece of the jigsaw, and the whole thing is a mess, from the man on the street to the guy at the very top.”
With most of the top names in road racing relying not on salaries but on start money and prize money to earn a living (with the TT remaining the biggest prize pot in two-wheeled racing), McGuinness admits that after a couple of rocky years for him 2020 could mean he has to tighten his belt to weather the storm.
“I’ve been through it before in 2001 with foot and mouth disease, but I had time on my side then and I don’t really now,” he said.
“I went through a fence at the North West 200 through no fault of my own, I struggled through 2018 with injuries, and 2019 was disastrous and I got my pants pulled down by Norton and they still owe me money.
“All my money is gone now, and I know that sounds really selfish but I have to look after myself.
“There are lots of tradesmen in road racing; I’m a builder, James Hillier is an electrician, there are a few joiners and plasterers.
“Maybe we all need to get back on the tools and start up together. Road Racing Builders – your structure up in 135 hours or less!”
2019 TT winner Lee Johnston echoed McGuinness’s concerns, admitting that it was going to make for a difficult year for him personally while still acknowledging that calling off the event was the right call.
“The least of people’s worries is riding a motorbike around in circles” :: Lee Johnston
“I can’t go and sign on for unemployment until Thursday, so I’m a freelancer until then!” he told The Race.
“A lot of the guys in road racing earn their money from start money and prize money, so it’s a big hit for us to lose the year.
“Obviously, there are always people in worse situations, especially anyone who is sick. The least of people’s worries is riding a motorbike around in circles. You have to feel for people who own small businesses or work freelance.
“The problem is that we have no idea what’s going to happen next. More and more stuff is being cancelled but we’re no closer to actually having a solution to anything.
“Not knowing is the biggest issue; how do you plan for something that hasn’t happened before?”
There might be some chance of seeing road racing action later in the year, should the global situation improve, with the opportunity of running the TT alongside August and September’s Classic TT one of the options that have been considered.
“Moving to the Classic TT date was mentioned,” Johnston told The Race, “and that would be a great solution to seeing some racing.
“The Isle of Man is a bit special in that they can open and shut the roads whenever they want, and the main issue would just be getting fans there. That’s a long time away, in August, so hopefully, it gives them some time.”
“The TT as a whole has weathered a few storms over its history, from health scares to world wars, and the event will always be there” :: Conor Cummins
While we might be in the middle of an unprecedented global situation, Conor Cummins is adamant that the TT will survive.
An Isle of Man native and a keen fan as well as the fastest Manx rider in years, he says that it’ll stand up to the challenge they’re all facing.
“We know that people from far and wide descend on the Isle of Man for two weeks in June and the island grows out of the sea a little bit, it’s such a huge thing!
“But we’re facing a deadly virus making its way around and the potential is there to make it even worse, so we have to do what we can to protect ourselves. It’s a bad situation but we don’t want to make it any worse.
“The TT as a whole has weathered a few storms over its history, from health scares to world wars, and the event will always be there.
“There’s always another day, and the fact is it’s shit for everyone right now with a lot of prep already done but it’s come to a grinding halt and rightly so.”