Isle of Man TT: Guy Martin on danger, death and Everest

"The TT is dangerous, of course it is, but that's the reason I do it. People are killed every year, but no-one's making them do it are they?"

Meet Guy Martin, possibly the only lorry mechanic in Britain who can also claim to be named after a World War II hero,  the face of TV sheepdog trials,  an occasional film star and one of the fastest motorcycle road racers in the world.

TT lap record

John McGuinness holds the outright TT lap record, covering the 37.75-mile circuit in 17 mins 12.3 seconds in 2009. That's an average speed of 131.578 mph

Over the next fortnight, Martin will be joined by more than 200 men and women competing in the Isle of Man TT races, racing at an average speed of over 130mph - and topping 200mph at times - on closed public roads, with the best covering the 37.7-mile lap in under 18 minutes.

That's the equivalent of driving from Leeds to Sheffield in less than 20 minutes, on winding A-roads lined by stone walls and houses, while climbing a mountain in the middle.

The risks are obvious. But what if that danger is what attracts some people to the sport?


"Now I've stopped racing I do think the TT is mad but I also think it is great. I'm a huge fan. I'm completely aware of the disasters and the dangers but people like Guy Martin love it to bits. They only want to do road racing, they find track racing boring. They get huge amounts of exhilaration from it and they are willing to take the risks, and that should never be stopped. You are pushing the boundaries. It's the last of the mad things people can do."

Martin, 30, told BBC Sport: "Short circuit racing is full of health and safety but the reason I ride a motorbike is because of the danger and there is no place more dangerous than the TT. I like pushing myself.

"I don't like routines, I like to be challenged and nothing beats the buzz of going round there."

Of course, not all short circuit racing, despite the run-off areas, controlled conditions and crash barriers, is as safe as Martin suggests.

On 16 October last year, British IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon was killed in an accident at the Las Vegas Speedway, before MotoGP rider Marco Simoncelli died in a crash at Sepang a week later.

And while deaths in motorcycle grand prix racing are fortunately rare - Simoncelli's was only the fifth since 1989 - 135 riders have been killed in the TT since it started in 1907, with 20 dying since 2000 alone.

But Martin, despite stepping on to the podium 13 times, has yet to win a TT and it is a target that keeps him returning despite the inherent risks.

"It is a right dangerous place and if you keep going back the chances are it will catch up with you," he said.

"When I win a TT, I will pack it in and find another challenge. Life is all about setting yourself goals and then achieving them.

"The TT taxes your mind.

TT deaths this century

Stephen Wood 29 May 2000, Whitegates

Chris Ascott 30 May 2000, Westwood Corner

Raymond Hanna 31 May 2000, Greeba Castle

Les Williams 9 June 2000, Ballaugh

Colin Daniels 27 May 2002, Bray Hill

David Jefferies 29 May 2003, Crosby

Serge Le Moal 29 May 2004, Braddan Bridge

Paul Cowley 2 June 2004, Black Dub

Colin Breeze 5 June 2004 , Quarry Bends

Joakim Karlsson 30 May 2005, Douglas Road Corner

Lee Harah 4 June 2005, Parliament Square

Gus Scott 10 June 2005, Rhencullen

Jun Maeda 29 May 2006, Ballahutchin Hill

Marc Ramsbotham 8 June 2007, 26th Milestone

John Crellin 12 June 2009, Mountain Mile

Paul Dobbs 10 June 2010, Ballagarey

Martin Loicht 10 June 2010, Quarry Bends

Bill Currie 31 May 2011, Ballacrye

Kevin Morgan 31 May 2011, Ballacrye

Derek Brien 6 June 2011, Gorse Lea

"Don't let your mind wander - if it does then usually you're dead. A split-second lapse in concentration and you can clip a kerb - dead."

Martin, who has enjoyed a manic few years which have seen presenting his own show on BBC One  and starring in a documentary film,  knows better than most the risks of pushing too hard at the TT.

During the Senior TT of 2010 Martin crashed his Honda at over 170mph, hitting a stone wall and destroying his bike in a huge fireball.

He should have been killed.

Instead, he was back working as a lorry mechanic within a fortnight. He laughs when asked whether that dice with death affects his approach to the race.

"No, of course not," he said. "Sounds worse than it was.

"I was injured but it wasn't bad - I broke eight ribs, punctured my lungs and broke my back in a few places - but the worst thing was I had a week in hospital and then another week off work.

"If there was no reason for you crashing then it would play with your head, but I was pushing hard, I was pushing too hard. I wanted to win and if anything got me into trouble it was that will to win.

"But if that is the reason I crashed then I'd be happy to do it again."

Martin - a man who took on the world's toughest mountain bike race in Austria  last year, just to tick it off - has already set his sights on the next challenge - Mount Everest.

What makes road racers risk life and limb on motorbikes at speeds in excess of 200mph?

"I've got an inkling to go and do Everest next," he said.

"Obviously it is an incredibly physical challenge, but your mindset is the test as well. You'd have to be determined not to give in.

"If you let the slightest bit of doubt creep into your mind then you'll be dead. I like stuff like that.

"Keep on keeping on."

TT practice starts on Saturday, 26 May with races on 2 June, 4 June, 6 June and 8 June.