Guy Martin - The Man, The Myth, The Living Legend
By Contributing Editor Ken Hutchison
“I still love motorbike racing, I love it because it can kill you, that’s why I do it.”
There are all types of people in the world but there is one type that stands apart from all the rest. These are the type of folks who do not
conform to the rules, they avoid the status quo and they choose to live life their own way. Some of them become leaders, some end up as legends who get an entire chapter devoted to them in a history book. These are the ones who either make it, or die trying.
Guy Martin, he’s always trying. Born the son of a privateer road racer who worked as a truck mechanic while raising a family of four. His family’s blue collar approach molded him into a hard-working badass who could’ve done any- thing with his life, but instead he chose to do everything. Guy was fascinated with machines and engines as a young man so he followed his father’s footsteps on the way to becoming a reputable mechanic capable of working on anything from maintaining a lorry to building a superbike engine. While making a good life for his own family, the thrill of racing always set the pace in his heart.
He exploded onto the road racing scene at his first Isle of Man TT in 2004 where he set the fastest lap ever by a newcomer at 122 mph and finished seventh in the Senior TT. From that point on, his life would never be the same. Although he never desired to be a professional racer, he was determined to conquer the TT, competing in the race religiously over the next 11 years. Along the way he became a folk hero to all the British racing fans as they followed his exploits year after year. During the next decade of his life he’s been close, finishing runner-up in the Senior TT twice. But he’s never won.
He did win over the fans, though. How could you not fall for a charismatic Brit who looks like the Wolverine, works his ass off during the week in the garage then hops on a bike and battles the best racers in Europe for the right to be TT champion year after year? Hell, only his countrymen can understand his high-energy rambling in post-race interviews because his accent is so deep but still, everyone loves him. His on-track success and raw charisma opened the door for him to be one of four riders featured in the critically acclaimed Isle of Man documentary TT3D: Closer to the Edge in 2011.
After stealing the show in Closer to the Edge, he truly became a household name. The cameras followed him as he once again fought valiantly with his rivals for that elusive TT win. He rode his brains out in 3D and poured his heart out during every interview, wearing his emotions on his sleeve all the while keeping a stiff upper lip and never losing sight of the fact that it was only a race and life goes on afterwards. No matter who you were, if you watched this film you wanted him to win, and your heart sank when he didn’t, you felt his pain, and you had no choice but to like him. Guy Martin had already arrived in the eyes of racing fans, but now he became the favorite son of an entire nation.
“I still love motorbike racing, I love it because it can kill you, that’s why I do it,” Martin explained in his 2014 Interview with The Guardian. Four more Isle of Man races came and went without him ever taking a win in the Senior TT class. Meanwhile, his popularity had grown to levels he never imagined and the opportunities to live and have fun outside of racing were starting to outshine his vain quest for TT glory. After finishing fourth in 2015 and suffering a big crash at Ulster, he broke the news on Facebook that he was going to miss the next Isle of Man so that he could compete in the Tour Divide bicycle race.
“Plenty of folks have been asking what I’m up to this year,” Martin confided to his fans. “I fancy a change of scenery. I’ve been racing the TT for 11 years. All I’ve really done since I was 18, except the trucks, is race motorbikes and my brain needs something else. Every year’s the same: testing, racing, then start again. It brought it home to me when I was lying in hospital after the Ulster Grand Prix crash. I’ve been on about the Tour Divide, the toughest pushbike race in the world, for three years and I thought I’ll blink and next thing I’ll be 45, so I’m going to do it this year. I like breaking myself mentally and the Tour Divide will be tough, but it’s same time at TT, so that’s forced me to make a choice.”
Over the years, Martin had found himself in the public eye on a more consistent basis and the wear and tear of racing was bogging him down. He was interviewed by every racing mag in the UK, every talk show, and was featured in more racing films before he landed the gig as the host for Speed with Guy Martin in 2013. Along the way he won plenty of other races and championships, built plenty of trucks and had a pretty incredible niche for himself. But there was a void that needed to be filled. A longing to get more out of life than chasing checkered flags. Sure, motorcycle racing is exciting but that was just the beginning, there were even more wild times in store for the fans of the mechanic from Grimsby.
He went on to nish the 2016 Tour Divide in 18 days and six hours. Afterwards he tweeted, “Toughest thing I’ve ever done – bloody brilliant.” The Tour Divide starts in Banff, Canada, and ends 2,745 miles later in Antelope, New Mexico. With over 200,000 feet of climbs along the route, it is billed as the longest and most grueling off road mountain bike race on earth. The record time to finish is 14 days, 11 hours 37 minutes, and a respectable men’s result is said to be 25 days so he proved once again that he is a stud. He had checked that off his to-do list and refocused his attention on breaking records again.
As the host of Speed, he had found an outlet that would allow him to become larger than life. In his first year the show focused on Guy’s effort to break unique speed records and that is what fueled the show’s popularity early on. The first episode saw him become Britain’s fastest cyclist when he managed 112.94 mph on a bicycle. Of course, he had to be pulled behind a specially designed truck on a long, dusty lake bed, but he did it. Next he rode an RM-Z450 into a lake, hydroplaning 63.56 meters for the official world record, with help from a specially designed belly pan that helped him skim across the water.
His team put on a hell of an attempt at becoming the fastest person to fly a human-powered aircraft, so the pressure was on to build a plane, learn to fly it and then compete in the Icarus Cup in only seven months. The 50-meter flight didn’t break the world record, but he was the fastest of the competition and officially fastest pilot of a man-powered plane with a top speed of...19 mph.
The fourth trial was gnarly as he attempted to ride a snow sled down a ski slope, faster than anyone in history. The Pyrenees Mountains were the epic backdrop for that death-defying effort intended to surpass a speed of 62 mph (100 kph) set by German adventurer Rolf Allerdissen in 2010. After much build up, training and practice over the course of 11 months, he was poised at the top of the massive 46-degree slope before beginning his descent. The footage was awesome, he slid down the hill perfectly, deployed a drogue chute to stop him after crossing the speed trap at 83.49 mph (134.36 kph) and set a new record. Voilà, the British TV fans were hooked and Martin has continued to wow fans for a third season.
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