Story and photos by Ronald Ahrens
Not long after arriving in Douglas for last month’s Isle of Man TT, I was browsing in a bookshop on the shopping street and came across My Autobiography, by Guy Martin. At the time I knew nothing about him or any other TT racers. They might have all come from Mars. By this time, Martin had already started race week on May 31, finishing second in the Superbike TT. He would come in sixth, tenth, and third in races to come.
Reading a few lines of the book was enough: the prose is as flat as a cracker. As it turns out, though, Martin’s motorcycle racing, combined with the native inquisitiveness that he describes and what Amazon commenters agree is a down-to-earth character, contributes to his celebrity status, with innovative shows (so I gather, not having seen them) for the BBC. He has a couple of other books, neither of which I can imagine is readable without help from a powerful ghostwriter.
Little did I know I would be getting more of Martin by month’s end.
On Sunday morning, June 29, I was at Pikes Peak, and who should be pushing his motorcycle out of the pits at 6:45 a.m.? Mop-topped and mutton-chopped, Martin emerged in the dust beneath Ponderosas, leading his men to battle.
The crude-looking bike, listed as a 2014 Martek Suzuki, was reportedly the result of three years’ worth of tinkering. It had a turbocharged Suzuki GSX-R1100 engine making 320 hp and causing the bike to lift its front wheel in high gear. But raw power isn’t the answer at Pikes Peak, which presents 156 turns in 12.42 miles. Cal Collins, of Glendale, Arizona, proved it on race day’s slick course. He raced a relatively anemic Honda 450 up the hill in 10:58.203, finishing 32nd overall and more than 34 seconds ahead of Martin, who crossed the line in 11:32.558.
“It’ll end in tears I’m sure,” Martin wrote of the motorcycle in his blog.
It did not end in Champagne.