John McGuinness has signed for the Norton factory team ahead of his Isle of Man TT return.
The Morecambe Missile is still recovering from the serious injuries sustained at last year’s North West 200 that saw him miss out on the 2017 TT.
But the 23-time winner on the Mountain Course is confident he will be fully fit come June and is excited by a new beginning after ending his long association with Honda.
“I didn’t want to end my career due to an injury, but the truth is I didn’t know whether I would be able to come back as I didn’t know how fit I was going to be,” said McGuinness, who will ride for Norton in the Superbike and Senior TT races.
“Right now, things are going well. I feel a lot sharper and my head is in gear and ready to go.
“The plan is to get the external fixator cage off my leg by the end of this month and after that we can start working towards getting bike fit and testing.”
McGuinness joins 2015 British Superbike Champion Josh Brookes in a two-man team using the latest specification Norton ‘SG7’ machines.
“I’m definitely ready for a change of manufacturer,” said the 45-year-old.
“I needed an injection of enthusiasm and I’ve found it with Norton.
“We can’t get carried away, it’s going to be a big job but I’ve watched a lot of YouTube videos of the bike in action, I watched the bike out on track last year and it’s clearly a very fast and capable bike and I can tell you there are worse handling bikes out there too, so there’s no reason we can’t do the business if the stars line up right.”
McGuinness last won a Superbike class race in 2015, winning the Senior TT, which also saw him breaking the outright lap record with a lap of 132.701 which remains his fastest lap around the Mountain Course.
He achieved podiums in both the 2016 Superbike and Senior TT before missing the festival of racing last year due to injury.
His remarkable TT career places him second only to Joey Dunlop in outright victories.
“We’ve been talking to John for a year or more, he’s the talent,” said Norton Motorcycles CEO Stuart Garner.
“He’s the man at the TT with the total experience, the results and the pedigree.
“We have the ambition to win the TT and to go on to develop a really strong team in years to come. We’d got John in our sights for a long time.
“To get John in the Norton team with his experience and knowledge available is fabulous.
“Norton will seize the opportunity to get John involved in all aspects of the bike – he’s a huge asset to Norton.
“Everyone in the factory has got a huge buzz. It’s pretty special.
“We’re all looking forward to the TT but we’ve not set any targets and take nothing for granted.
“Putting John McGuinness and Norton together is a dream team, but we know all results at the TT are hard earned whatever your name.”