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John McGuinness and Norton to race at the 2019 event

PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 2019: John McGuinness who will race the Norton superbike at the 2019 fonaCAB International North West 200 in association with Nicholl Oils. PHOTOGRAPH BY STEPHEN DAVISON

JOHN MCGUINNESS AND NORTON TO RACE AT 2019 fonaCAB INTERNATIONAL NORTH WEST 200 IN ASSOCIATION WITH NICHOLL OILS

The ‘will they or won’t they’ saga surrounding John McGuinness racing the Norton at the 2019 fonaCAB International North West 200 in association with Nicholl Oils has ended with the British manufacturer announcing the six times North West winner will compete in this year’s races.

McGuinness will ride the SG8 superbike in what will be the Norton’s first appearance in Ireland. The 47 year old will also race the new 650cc Superlight bike in both Supertwins events on May 12-18.

Norton had hoped to run their new V4 engine 1200cc engine in the SG8 superbike at the NW200 and TT but the regulations prohibit machines of more than 1000cc capacity. The British manufacturer has now returned to the 1000cc V4 Aprilia motor which had been used previously.

‘It has taken a lot of sorting out but it has all come together at the 11th hour.’ McGuinness smiled as he returns to the venue where he broke his leg in a 2017 practice crash. The injury has seen him miss the NW200 for the last two seasons.

The Morecambe racer has been intensively testing the Norton over the past couple of months.

‘I was at Rockingham last week and I have been banging in the miles at Bruntingthorpe, Anglesey, Cadwell, Croft, Castle Combe and Oulton.’ McGuinness explained.

‘I’ve had to be patient and it has been a long wait but now I can’t wait to get stuck in at the North West.’

McGuinness says he is happy with the performance of the Norton superbike after over a decade of racing Hondas.

‘I matched the times I did on the Honda when we tested at Castle Combe so the bike isn’t a million miles away.’ he said.

‘The engine is more powerful and the bike has lots of speed and stability. The team is good, the tyres are good and we have been doing the work. I haven’t raced at the North West since I snapped my leg in half two years ago but I am going into the event with an open mind and I am optimistic we can do OK.’

McGuinness admitted to having some nerves about making his UK road racing comeback.

‘I am excited but I will be nervous as well, especially going into Primrose where it nearly all ended two years ago.’ he said.

‘I wouldn’t be human if I wasn’t.’

McGuinness also has entries for both the Supersport and Superstock races at the NW200 but doesn’t have machinery available at this stage.

‘We are delighted to have John, one of the North West’s longest serving riders, back racing with us in the 90th anniversary year.’ Event Director, Mervyn Whyte, MBE, said.

‘The Norton will also be a huge attraction for local road racing fans who will have the chance to see and hear the superbike on the famous Triangle circuit. John will debut the Superlight Norton racer in the Supertwin races which adds even more interest to a class that already enjoys a very impressive line-up for 2019.’

NORTON BOSS DELIGHTED WITH NW200 RETURN AFTER THREE DECADE ABSENCE

Norton boss Stuart Garner is delighted the factory team is returning to the North West for the first time since the glory years of the early 1990s when Robert Dunlop and Trevor Nation dominated the superbike races at the event on the black and gold JPS rotary engined machines.

‘It is great to take the Norton brand back racing there and to draw a line under what has been a dark chapter in John’s career.’ Garner said.

‘If we can get a respectable result as well we will be over the moon. A podium or a top ten finish would be great.’

MCGUINNESS TO RACE SUPERLIGHT NORTON IN NW200 SUPERTWIN RACES

Alongside competing on the SG8 superbike at the North West 200, John McGuinness will make his road racing debut on the 650cc Norton Superlight machine in both Supertwin races at Portrush.

McGuinness will be the British manufacturer’s sole representative on the new twin with his Norton teammates in the class, Peter Hickman and Davey Todd, sitting out the North West races.

‘It has all been a bit last minute and working with one rider is enough for us to deal with.’ Norton boss, Stuart Garner explained.

‘We don’t have time to put together three bikes and we don’t want to dilute our effort with John and the new bike.’

McGuinness has been testing the 650 alongside the superbike in recent tests.

‘I have ridden the twin at Rockingham and did 20 laps at Anglesey plus a few at Croft.’ McGuinness explained.

‘I am still trying to understand the bike as it is new territory for me. I’ve ridden 125s, 250s, electric bikes, all kinds during my career, but this is my first time on one of these.’

With Glenn Irwin, Michael Rutter, Dan Cooper, Jeremy McWilliams, Derek McGee and Stefano Bonetti lining up on the North West grid aboard an array of well sorted Paton and Kawasaki machinery, it will be a stern test for the new Norton in this ultra competitive class.

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