While part of the motorcycle racing world is wondering whether Valentino Rossi can win another MotoGP championship at 39, 46-year-old Isle of Man TT legend John McGuinness, still recovering from a terrible leg injury, has just signed up for another go at the Mountain Course. This time, on a Norton.
With 23 wins and 46 podiums at the TT, McGuinness is the second-winningest rider ever in the world's most notorious motorcycle race. But he has more than his age working against him. One reason McGuinness is standing behind the motorcycle in the photos is to hide the external fixators still attached to his leg, which was badly broken last year in the North West 200 race. Honda later admitted that his crash was caused by a problem with the motorcycle's ECU that blipped the throttle unexpectedly, hurling McGuinness onto a roadside golf course, badly hurt.
"I didn't want to end my career due to an injury, but the truth is I didn't know whether I would be able to come back," he said. Now, he says he's making progress and promises to be fit by June for the TT.
Upstart Norton has hired McGuinness and 2015 British Superbike champion Josh Brookes to ride the Norton SG7 race bikes in the TT this year. Meanwhile, Norton has been promising to deliver the street-going V4 RR version of its 1,200 cc race bike to customers for a long time.
The cynical could (and have) looked at McGuinness' signing with Norton as less about winning the TT than about securing a retirement gig — lending his fame to an iconic British brand making a comeback. Nothing wrong with that. We all need to plan for retirement. It's a lot like former World Superbike champ Carl Fogarty, who spent his career racing Ducatis, linking up with Triumph as a brand ambassador now that his racing days are in the past.
Then again, when McGuinness throws a hopefully healed leg over the Norton in June, it will only have been three years since he broke the outright lap record on the Isle of Man, lapping the course at a speed of 132.701 mph. It's not impossible that he could have another podium, or even another win, still in him, despite the challenges of age, injury and a less proven race bike than the Hondas he's mostly ridden.
We'll find out in four months.