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Images from week one of the 2019 Isle of Man TT
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My Lid TT Special: A decade with John McGuinness

Jun 032019

King of the mountain; the most successful living rider to compete at the Isle of Man TT; and race fit once again. Out of a 23 year career competing at the world fastest and longest road race, 2019 is a defining year for John McGuinness.

Following a high speed crash in 2017 - which resulted in a broken leg, ribs, and back - forcing McGuinness to the sidelines for almost two seasons, the 47 year old is now back to full fitness. What’s more, he will ride a full complement of machinery - competing in the Superbike and Lightweight categories with British manufacturer Norton, the all-electric TT-Zero with Mugen, and the Supersport category with Padgetts Racing.

This year’s return to form with a full assault nearly all categories available at the 2019 Isle of Man TT races, also coincides with a decade of partnership with Monster Energy. To mark the occasion, we take a look at the vital piece of safety kit that helps keeps McGuinness’ head safe and cool at 200mph, warns off bad luck with a Voodoo doll, and for 2019 carries a refreshed version of the design which the English rider wore a decade ago.

BREAKING RECORDS AND BUG-SPLAT

But first flash back to 2009 briefly. An intense fortnight of sun drenched racing saw speeds climb and records tumble. McGuinness, broke the then outright lap record, and set a new Superbike class record of 130.442 mph (17' 21.29) on lap 2.

Aboard his 1000cc Honda Fireblade, McGuinness completed the obligatory six racing laps of the ‘Mountain Course’ in a staggering 1:46.07 seconds, to win the opening superbike race, and cover a shade over 226 miles (363km) in the process. Take a second to think about that. That’s the equivalent to racing from London to Liverpool, or Paris to Brussels, on tree lined back roads in under two hours, including two pitstops.

At the end of the week McGuinness looked on course to complete a dream Superbike double-win, until disaster struck. While leading the blue-riband Senior TT by an almost unassailable advantage over team mate Steve Plater, the chain snapped on his Fireblade, ending his chances of a runaway victory.

Looking at the fly-spattered helmet, is a stark reminder of the race: “This is - or was Shoei’s best helmet at the time - the X-Spirit, and it’s is exactly as I finished the 2009 Senior TT - I never cleaned the flies or muck off it. If I have a significant result with a helmet at the TT I dont clean them and put them straight in the collection” explained McGuinness.

“I was coming out of Ramsay into Parliament square, and as I changed from first to second gear the chain snapped. I had a 21 second lead over Steve Plater - who was my team mate at the time. I was desperate to beat him because of what he said he was going to do if he won. I was absolutely gutted! You can see the big mark in the visor - that’s where I got a little bit angry and headbutted the fuel tank. When I got off the bike, and took my helmet off, I was so angry, but then somebody in the crowd handed me a drink and a big cheese sandwich - after a couple of bites I thought ‘it could be worse’..”

Headbutts aside, McGuinness has used Shoei helmets for just over 15 years - currently wearing the Japanese manufacturer’s flagship racing model the X-Spirit III. “I’ve had a good relationship with Shoei since 2005,” continues McGuinness. “I’ve been going out with the same bird for thirty years - so you could say I’m a bit loyal! When you are racing around the Isle of Man you want good gear on your head, and I couldn’t ask for better than Shoei give me. It’s super important that your helmet fits well and is the best possible. The ventilation system works well, the light and visibility is great - it’s a really good bash hat. It’s the one piece of kit you want to work perfectly but never want to test!

 

THE DESIGN

 

“The way the stickers are on the helmet - was all about me trying to earn a few quid. I did all that myself - It looks like a five year old has cut them out and done it. 2009 was the start of my journey with Monster Energy - so this is a tenth anniversary, which is the same time as their title sponsorship of the TT. I like the brand a lot, so at the time I put the [Monster] claw on my helmet, and said ‘if you like what you see let’s do something in the future, if not, I’ll take it off. It’s been a great partnership.”

 

“The design on my helmet goes back to 1999 when I won my first TT. I went to America that year to race at Daytona. I crashed and ended up destroying the helmet I had with me. I was sharing a garage with a guy called Jack Silverman. He owned a museum with a load of stuff from North and South America - and as well as that had a load of helmets painted with the same designs as the different artefacts in his museum. He had this one with the design I wear with a picture of an Aztec doll that warns off evil spirits. It was a small - which fitted - so I wore it and won Daytona, won the British Championship, and won my first TT. I always thought the doll could bring me a little bit of luck!”

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