North West 200: John McGuinness Norton deal scuppered for now

Plans for John McGuinness to race the factory Norton V4 at this year’s 90th anniversary North West 200 have hit the rocks.

John McGuinness completed a parade lap on the Norton SG7 at last year's Isle of Man TT.

As revealed by the News Letter earlier on Wednesday, the machine that McGuinness tested at Cadwell Park on Monday runs Norton’s own 1200cc engine as opposed to the Aprilia-derived motor used at the TT last year by Josh Brookes in the SG7.

Under the regulations at the North West, four-cylinder machines must be limited to a maximum of 1010cc, rendering the Norton V4 ineligible for the Superbike class at the international road race.

A statement issued by Event Director Mervyn Whyte on Wednesday afternoon said: “The organisers of the 2019 fonaCAB International North West 200 in association with Nicholl Oils received an entry from John McGuinness dated 7th February, 2019 to compete for the Norton team in the May 12-18 races.

Morecambe's John McGuinness had hoped to race the Norton V4 at the 90th anniversary North West 200 in May in preparation for the Isle of Man TT.

“The entry specified the machine John was entered on for both Superbike races would have an engine capacity of 1000cc. The entry was accepted on that basis and a recent announcement was made to the press that John would make his comeback to the North West 200 after a two year absence because of a leg injury sustained in 2017. The organisers were delighted at this prospect.

“The organisers were subsequently informed on 26 March, 2019 by Norton that the engine capacity of the SG8 superbike they intend to race at the North West will be 1200cc. It does not, therefore, meet the current Technical regulations for the NW200 superbike races and would not be eligible for competition at the event.

“John McGuinness and Norton CEO, Stuart Garner, have both been informed of that situation. It is hoped that a solution can still be found to resolve this issue before May and that both John McGuinness and Norton will take part in the 90th anniversary event.”

McGuinness had been due to race for Norton at the TT last year but he was ruled out after suffering a re-break of the right leg he initially fractured in a crash during qualifying at the North West in 2017.

The 23-time TT winner made a successful return to the Mountain Course at the Classic TT in August, where he won the Senior race on the Paton. He also raced at the Macau Grand Prix alongside Martin Jessopp in the PBM Ducati team, finishing in tenth place.

In January, race chief Whyte told the News Letter he was keen to examine the possibility of permitting Norton and McGuinness to race at the 90th anniversary NW200 this year.

Under FIM homologation rules, machines like the Norton and Honda RCV are not eligible to compete at the North West, although special dispensation can be granted in individual cases at the organisers' discretion.

However, permitting a 1200cc machine to race is one outcome that Event Director Whyte is not prepared to consider.

Previously, 46-year-old McGuinness stated his desire to return to the event and made a plea to the organisers to allow the Norton to take part.

McGuinness said: “I need the North West 200 organisers to let Norton race as well – how, when or what I don’t care, I’m not interested in the politics – the Norton will drag a few more thousand people to that North Coast in Ireland to watch that bike.

“I want to ride there, even if we don’t get any results, but I want to ride there and be sharp for the TT.”

This year marks the 25th anniversary of six-time winner McGuinness’s debut at the North West 200.