Early starts are like second nature now. As has been the radio announcement that rain was expected.

The rain was meant to arrive around lunchtime and as such the Senior TT had been pushed forward to an earlier start.

We had a tight schedule but we were determined to be there, we knew what this meant to John and family. We weren’t going to be vultures just trying to get footage, we were also there as part of his fan club now too.

The Anniversary

There’s a strange thing about anniversaries I find. Not always a celebration but a time for reflection and to review what has gone on in between.

When we spoke to John‘s wife Becky she recounted the tale of when he told her his dream. To win an Isle of Man TT title. He told her he’d give it all up once he had won his title.

It was 20 years to the day since he had first found himself on the top step of the TT podium. Becky’s gentle chuckle when discussing how she had fell for this statement.

John hasn’t looked back since he won his first title here in 1999. He has added a further 22 titles in the following 19 years, having missed two years with injury and also seeing the 2001 edition called off due to the foot and mouth outbreak.

That’s an impressive haul. He sits second on the all time list behind a racer he himself would watch as a child – The legendary Joey Dunlop.

But ask John what drives him on and he will deny that it is the record he is after, he just wants to ride as long as he enjoys it. Speaking to him and Becky this doesn’t feel like it will be anytime soon.

The Big Race

A podium had helped ease John back into TT action after two years out with injury and then a barrage of delays limiting his time out on track.

But there is a steely determination still in his eye as soon as he has his leathers on. A normal guy whenever you speak to him but as soon as it comes to the business end, he is a a different person. Well to me anyway.

There was just something different in the air ahead of the Senior TT. You can tell this is the one people look forward to. Plus given the delays this was the only race that would be going full distance, six laps of high octane action.

The throng of the crowd in the build up was something I was not prepared for. I’ve spent years going to various sporting events and seeing the crowds gather before the start. But there was something different aout this.

Avid fans littered everywhere along the course, a huge crowd gathered at the start line, knowing this is probably the most in focu you would see the riders before they started to zoom by.

Seeing John get back on the bike for the race he had been building towards was quite special to see so close up. I’ve been here for almost a week and when walking around you constantly overhear fans discussing his return. I felt quite bigheaded knowing that I had been speaking to him just hours beforehand.

The Not So Fairytale Return

The engines roared, the riders disappeared into the distance and then you just had to have your ears focussed to the radio commentary.

It is a weird experience is the modern age where phones and TVs are everywhere.

This is a throwback I was enjoying, a sensation of not really knowing what was going on. Having to rely on others. A sense of community.

It was using this method that we were able to track the race, and where we first heard that there was an issue with his bike. Slowing, slowing, stopped. Then the confirmation that he had retired from the race.

We left his family alone and decided it would be best to give him some space, there’s only so many expletive we can feature in the documentary anyway.

However we went to speak to them after some time had passed, we also got the low down on what had happened.

I’m not the most technically gifted when it comes to engines, but I like to think I’m clued up enough – thanks to a lot of google searches before this trip.

A bolt going through the frame and engine had sheared off at one end, when cornering it would simply slide out. Doesn’t seem that bad right?

Wrong, when speaking to season professionals, the McGuinness family, in this field it was clear that this could have been a lot worse. You don’t need to be a body language expert to know this.

Having seen friends lose their lives in the sport and having almost lost John when he had his injury seeing those close to the action discuss this hits home.

But thankfully he was able to get back. I will say though he looked unfazed. Just another ride, more affected by not being able to compete at the top where he has spent most of his career.

The question on everyone’s lips seems to be if John will call it a day after this weeks disappointing return.

I won’t be foolish enough to say one way or another, but like the name of his autobiography says John was Built for Speed.

Odds are correct at the time of posting

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