John McGuinness celebrated his 100th start at the Isle of Man TT Races on Saturday with a fine fifth place in the six-lap RST Superbike race, the 23-time winner returning to the top five in a 1000cc race for the first time since 2016.
In a TT career that started in 1996, the Morecambe Missile was back with Honda Racing on the island for the first time in six years and back on the Honda Fireblade with which he’d enjoyed so much success in the past and a good week of qualifying put him in a good position ahead of the opening race.
With perfect conditions all around the world-famous 37.73-mile Mountain Course, a solid opening lap of 128.43mph saw John slot into tenth place but from that moment on, he was able to increase his pace and steadily work his way up the leaderboard.
Indeed, a second lap of 129.27mph enabled him to gain three places and climb up to seventh and that soon became fourth after an exemplary pit stop by his crew at the end of the lap. However, only 13s covered John in fourth to seventh placed James Hillier with regular sparring partner Ian Hutchinson and Jamie Coward sandwiched in between.
A fourth lap of 129.14mph meant John’s advantage over Hutchinson was just 3.5s and with the Bingley rider having a quicker sixth and final lap, he was able to overhaul John but he duly held on for a fine fifth place to conclude his 100th start in fine style.
“I’m not sure if the morning warm-up lap did me any favours as I was a bit sluggish at the beginning of the race but I had no problems at all, I hit every spot, had two solid pit stops and kept chipping away," said McGuinness.
"Conditions were absolutely beautiful and I’ve never seen so many people lining the course – the atmosphere was off the chart – so I can’t think of a better day for my 100th start. The bike was faultless and I did my absolute best.”
“Did I think I’d win it? No. Did I enjoy it? Yes. And after having some dark days in the past, never did I think I’d be doing this again, setting off at number 1 on the Honda Fireblade and running round the Mountain Course at close to 130mph.
"I kept seeing P4 and P5 on my pit boards and when I saw the number 4 below, I knew Hutchy would be hell bent on beating me – he’s spent all winter in the gym whilst I’ve been eating pies! I’m still pleased with fifth though and after having so many people still have faith in me, none more so than Honda, it’s really nice to pay them back with a strong result.”