It’s back on! John McGuinness will ride the factory Norton SG8 Superbike at next week’s fonaCAB International North West 200 in association with Nicholl Oils.
The Morecambe man will take his place on the grid in Portrush after all following confirmation that the British manufacturer will revert back to the 1000cc Aprilia V4 motor used at last year’s Isle of Man TT races.
Norton had hoped to run its new 1200cc V4 engine at the North West and TT, but the regulations do not permit four cylinder machines exceeding a capacity of 1000cc.
After initially accepting McGuinness’s NW200 entry on the basis that the machine would be 1000cc, the deal was quickly taken off the table by Event Director Mervyn Whyte when it transpired that Norton intended to run its 1200cc V4 motor.
However, an eleventh hour agreement has now been reached less than a week before practice commences on the North coast and six-time winner McGuinness will ride the iconic silver racer in both Superbike races.
The 47-year-old will also compete in the Supertwin races on Norton’s new Superlight machine.
He will be joined in the class in the Lightweight race at the TT by Davey Todd and Peter Hickman, although McGuiness is the sole entry on the 650cc machine at the North West.
The 23-time TT winner will be back at the event for the first time since he was badly injured in a crash in Superbike qualifying on the Honda Racing Fireblade in 2017.
It will be Norton’s debut appearance in Ireland and McGuinness admits he ‘cannot wait’ to unleash the SG8 around the 8.9-mile Triangle course.
“It has taken a lot of sorting out but it has all come together at the eleventh hour,” said McGuinness, who has been busy testing the Norton over the past few months.
“I was at Rockingham last week and I have been banging in the miles at Bruntingthorpe, Anglesey, Cadwell, Croft, Castle Combe and Oulton.
“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 is switching to a new manufacturer after a decade riding Honda Fireblade machinery but it seems he has made a successful transition the Norton.
“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.”
Although he has been back in race mode at the Classic TT – winning the Senior race on the Paton – and last November’s Macau Grand Prix, McGuinness admits he is a little apprehensive over his North West 200 return as he marks his 25th year of competing at the famous road race, which is celebrating its 90th anniversary this month.
“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.”
He also holds entries for the Supersport and Superstock races at the NW200 but does not yet have machinery confirmed at this stage.
Roads close for opening practice next Tuesday, May 14 at 9.15am, reopening no later than 3pm