ULSTER GP: Guy Martin confirmed as non-starter by race chiefs

Guy Martin on the Honda Racing Fireblade at the Isle of Man TT.
Guy Martin on the Honda Racing Fireblade at the Isle of Man TT.

The organisers of the MCE Ulster Grand Prix have confirmed that Guy Martin will not compete at Dundrod next month.

It had been hoped the Lincolnshire rider would return to the event for the first time since 2015 with the Honda Racing team, but a statement issued by the club on Friday morning said Martin will be a non-starter.

Clerk of the Course at the MCE UGP, Noel Johnston said: “Naturally I’m disappointed to have the news confirmed by Honda that Guy won’t race at Dundrod next month, but it’s not altogether surprising given the difficulties the team has experienced throughout the season.

“I had hoped for a different outcome as Guy is obviously a big fan favourite, and he’s never made any secret in the past of his love for the circuit, which after all is the international where he’s had the most success over the years.

“I’m sure the decision hasn’t been taken lightly by him or the team and I wish Guy well, whatever the next step in his career may be.

“Putting this news aside, I’m very happy with the strength of this year’s entry. We’ve seen some incredible performances this season from the likes of Peter Hickman, Michael Dunlop and Dean Harrison in particular, and I’ve no doubt they will bring the same spectacular form to Dundrod,” he added.

“Everyone will be there trying to end their season on a high, and the field is wide open; I think we could see a few dark horses in the mix and ready to make their mark at the world’s fastest road race.”

After pulling out of the Senior TT in June, Martin delivered a scathing assessment of his Island return with Honda in the post TT-Zero race press conference.

The 35-year-old, who finished second behind his Mugen team-mate Bruce Anstey in the electric race, was announced as 23-time TT winner John McGuinness's team-mate by Honda in January.

Morecambe star McGuinness was ruled out of the TT after a crash in qualifying at the North West 200. He later said he felt his new SP2 Superbike didn’t slow when he rolled the throttle on the approach to Primrose Corner, where the crash occurred. McGuinness suffered a compound fracture of his lower right leg, ruling him out of the rest of the season.

Honda withdrew from the Superbike and Superstock races at the North West on safety grounds, unable to rule out a technical issue with the CBR1000RR.

A test was held at Castle Combe prior to the TT and the team switched to the Motec electronics system run by Honda’s BSB riders, ditching the kit system.

However, disaster was narrowly averted when Martin was fortunate to escape serious injury in a massive crash at the fast fourth-gear Doran’s Bend on the opening lap of the RST Superbike race.

A false neutral was declared the cause of the incident and a visibly shocked Martin had the demeanour of a man who knew the outcome could have been very different.

While Honda put a brave face on things, Martin was less keen to toe the party line.

Rumours began to circulate over whether or not he would ride the Honda in the blue riband Senior TT and in a dramatic announcement on the morning of the race, the news came through that Martin had decided to pull out.

The official team statement declared a lack of set-up time as the reason for the withdrawal.

Following the TT Zero race, Martin’s misgivings over the new Honda in its current guise were all too plain to see.

“We’ve had a bit of an – well I don’t know what the right word is, I don’t want to get my ear chewed. But we’ve had a bit of an interesting week,” Martin said at the time.

“With what has gone on this week, I’m sick to the back teeth with it to be honest. The only good thing I can drag out of it is the whole Mugen thing. I ask myself why am I doing it and then I say, ‘well I’m on a Mugen’, and that’s a good reason for doing it.

“If I get the chance to come back on the Mugen then yeah, but for owt else then I think I need to have a bit of a rethink.

“The TT’s great, but you can never forget that it is only a motorbike race.”

Asked if he had committed to the Southern 100, Martin said: “I need to twist George’s [Peach, Race Secretary] arm and see if he’ll let me enter my turbo bike!”

Pressed on whether he would ride the Honda SP2, Martin added: “Oh come on, you’re getting political now! Hopefully we’ll be out on the Honda – if not then we’ll take something out of the shed.”

It was a high-risk strategy by Honda to sign such an ungovernable non-conformist as Martin and the trade off for unparalleled publicity has backfired spectacularly.

Martin did not appear at the Southern 100 and now that he won't be on the grid at the Ulster Grand Prix, it could well be the end of the road for motorcycle road racing's biggest star and his association with Honda.