INTERVIEW: Guy Martin
Guy Martin talks to the BMF about The Big Brew Campaign, big engines and quitting road racing after a Senior TT win
When Rider Magazine asked me to interview fulltime truck fitter, mountain bike rider, TV personality, legendary TT Racer and avid spinal research campaigner, Guy Martin, two thoughts crossed my mind:
One, when and how is he ever going to spare time to talk to a lowly motorcycle-hack like me? And two, whether or not the man behind the mutton chops would measure up to the billing his unusually high media profile has earned him.
Six Ulster GPs, seven consecutive Gold Cups and 13 TT podiums is an impressive list of achievements by any measure, but how many TT racers, past or present, can boast the sort of profile this media-savvy 29-year-old has managed to earn for himself? And why does the guy stir so much emotion in both his followers and his more modest number of vehement detractors at the top of the racing fraternity?
Public spats with Parkalgar boss Simon Buckmaster, and more recently, a war of words between Martin and six times TT winner, Ian Hutchinson might be one reason, but his death-defying – and hugely effective – approach to what he openly refers to as his ‘hobby’, has captured the imagination of his growing army of fans and he is putting his popularity to good use.
Some documentary work for TV (The Boat That Guy Built, BBC, March 2011) and a couple of well-produced crossover documentaries (including TT3D Closer To The Edge) have ensured that whatever the likes of legends like Hutchy think of the tea-drinking, truck-fitter from Kirmington, he’s going to be popular for a little longer yet, and while he keeps on trimming the hedges of the most infamous road racing circuits the ‘big boys’ are going to have to get used to him snapping at their heels.
When we spoke he had just flown back from Ireland. That weekend he had set the fastest lap and picked up a win in the open race at the Cookstown 100, the first of the 2012 road racing season with Tyco TAS Suzuki.
He was relaxed, happy. He speaks in his trademark Lincolnshire accent as if he is ‘having a yarn’ and a brew with a regular customer at his busy truck fitting workshop. I start off by asking him about his charity, Spinal Research UK. His Big Brew campaign is in full swing (May 4-7, 2012) aiming to raise awareness of and fund research into helping people who suffer spinal injuries.
“People think spinal injuries equal wheelchairs and that’s that,” he says. “Big Brew is about is helping people understand that spinal injury doesn’t mean ‘the end’.”
Guy found Spinal Research UK and set about planning the Big Brew as a result of his own experience, recovering from his own his horrific 170mph crash at the TT in 2010. He has also known friends and colleagues who have lost mobility and, in some cases, had to adjust to the challenge of life in a wheelchair.
After leaving the track at such a speed, he knew he was in for a rough ride. He was hurt and he knew immediately that he had damaged his back.
“I laid there thinking, that isn’t right. Then you start thinking.”
So how did he come back from such a horrendous crash? Surprisingly, though endearingly, he speaks of the incident as if he had grazed a knee.
“Five weeks later I was bored. I needed to get back to work,” he says, referring to the lorries, not the bikes. “After a week at work, I was desperate to get back on the bikes. They wouldn’t pass me fit for racing, so I went out on my mountain bikes instead.”
By sharing his experience and those of the many motorcyclists around him that have had similar experiences, he hopes that people can understand that spinal injury does not have to be the end. Spinal Injury UK is at the forefront of that work, and his Big Brew campaign – to which he lends his image, name and spare time – aims to raise awareness and raise much needed cash.
“The Big Brew is a bit of a laugh, but it has a serious message and I hope people will get behind it, and take part in their own Big Brew events!”
His enthusiasm for his charitable work is contagious. When we move on to bikes, he is darting back and fourth, telling me about his other exploits too: Mountain bikes, engines, his trucks; the words he shares really don’t tell the story though.
Talking to Guy, it is his quiet confidence that really stays with you. He has a childish enthusiasm sure, but he is no kid. He is committed, but he has so many interests that you wonder how he can be brilliant at all of it. But, that’s just it. He is. It is this attitude and ease with which he can switch modes that has to be why he is so popular, and similarly why he has managed to get up the noses of some.
I pushed him on his ambition to lift the Senior TT Trophy and quit road racing for good. He answers in his modest, bloke next door tone: “I don’t know, it will come when it comes and when it does, I’ll move on.”
Really? Will he really quit? “I’m not going to road race forever. I’ll always love bikes. I’ll have done it though. Maybe, it is the British way of doing things, tick the box and get on with it.”
Tell us about the TT, will you win this year?
“I don’t know,” he pauses before going on. “I’ve got the best bike, the best team. What will be will be.”
Most serious – most successful – racers commit their entire existence to racing. Does Guy? Maybe not, but maybe he does in his own way. He seems to compartmentalise his interests – he gives everything 100 per cent, one test at a time. Perhaps that is what sets Guy apart, and presumably inflames the tempers of his critics. It’s there in his steel, in his approach to his recovery: he gets up and moves on. Bounces back.
Perhaps that’s the message he wants people to hear most, particularly with regard to his Spinal Research Campaigning. He talks about it like it’s his way, the only way: “tick the box and move on”.
To find out more about Spinal Research UK, or get involved in Guy Martin’s Big Brew, visit www.guymartinbigbrew.org