When John McGuinness got the chance to try out in a works British Touring Car earlier this week, Bike Social went along to see just how quickly the TT legend would take to adapt to four wheels. It wasn’t long at all, as it turned out…
John McGuinness is a total petrolhead, so when the opportunity to try out his mate Gordon Shedden’s Honda Civic Type R came along, it was an offer he was never going to refuse.
The test took place at Knockhill, where less than 24 hours earlier reigning champion Shedden had been fighting it out in the country’s most ferocious car racing series, giving the TT legend a chance to benchmark what he could do in his first outing in a race car.
With touring cars limited to just two engines for the season, McGuinness would have just 20 laps in the 360bhp front wheel drive Civic, which has cost more than £250,000 to develop, while Shedden would also be putting in a few laps on John’s TT superbike to see who could push hardest on the other’s machine.
Posing for photos, it was clear to see that John was like a kid on Christmas morning. “I’ve always grown up around cars and had a few fast ones over the years,” he said. “You think you can drive them fast and Gordon and I have been chipping away at Honda and Dunlop over the years to try and make this happen, so that I can have a go in his car and for him to ride my bike. It has finally happened and I’m genuinely so excited and looking forward to this. It’s a championship winning car, Gordon’s a cool guy and it’s a great team. So to have the opportunity to drive it is very special.”
Fitted out in his specially made Alpinestars ‘romper suit’ there’s no elegance as John clambers into the snug Type R. The race engineer runs through the controls before John thumbs the starter and heads off down pitlane.
His first eight lap stint shows typical racer mentality. Far from enjoying the chance to drive around on a PR jolly, McG is out to go as fast as he can. From a 56.7 on his first lap, there’s a nodding appreciation on the pit wall. 56.5, 55.9, 55.5, the lap times tumble as the Dunlop slicks come up to temperature and McGuinness’ confidence grows. Lap after lap the times are dropping until the team radio him in. He’s done a 55 second lap, 2.7 seconds off Shedden’s best from the day before. “He’s doing well,” says Gordon “though he’s taking a few liberties with the track limits. I’m not sure we’d get away with that in the race.”
The pair go off to review the onboard video and overlay the onboard telemetry from John’s lap with that of Gordon’s. It’s clear that while the bike racer has no problems through the corners, he’s nowhere close to braking as hard as the BTCC man into Taylor’s, Knockhill’s deadstop hairpin.
Bikes are my passion but everybody loves fast cars. I'd love to race one!
Determined to improve, John heads out for a second stint, getting down to a 54s lap following less than 20 minutes in the car.
Speaking after the test, John said: "The car just sucks you in and gives you so much confidence. It’s saying, 'go on you w****r, push me harder'! Overlaying the data with Gordon’s I can see that I am losing all of my time on the braking. That’s the big difference between the car and the bike, you couldn’t brake that late on a bike, no chance. It hasn’t got the straightline speed of the bike though, the bike will annihilate the car on top speed but through all that twisty section you can just be so aggressive with the car and it’s hooking up everywhere. You can just wang it over the kerbs. If you do that on a bike you’d be straight up the road!
"I've really enjoyed the test. I don't know if 54 flat is good or not, but we’re not a million miles away considering I’ve only done 20 laps. Driving the car is a different experience to being on the bike. It's claustrophobic as you are strapped in so tight and surrounded by the dashboard and roll cage. The view is so different and you can see the apexes much more easily on a bike. I've used muscles I haven't used before and I can feel it in my back and my neck, and my hands and my feet, where you push the brake pedal so hard.
"It's been good fun and there's been a lot less pressure on me than there was with Gordon riding my bike. I'd be great if the opportunity came along to race a car but for now I'm really grateful to Dunlop and Honda for making this happen and for giving me the chance to drive this amazing car. You think that it will be easy (compared to riding a bike) but driving this has really raised my respect for these guys and the job that they do."