With his piercing eyes, trademark sideburns and thick mane of scruffy hair, Guy Martin has gained celebrity status in recent years from the many television shows he’s presented. He’s also a cult figure among motorcycling fans worldwide thanks to his daring exploits at the most dangerous race of them all, the Isle of Man TT. Fame and fortune doesn’t sit well with him though, and the truth is that he’s never happier than when he’s working at his “proper” job as a truck fitter. BMW Motorrad meets the reluctant hero in the workshop…
With his regulation blue overalls, oil-stained fingers and mug of Yorkshire tea, Guy Martin is in his element. Forget TV land, there are lots of trucks to work on and as far as he’s concerned, a bit of hard graft never hurt anyone. “This is the default setting for me – this is what it’s all about and everything revolves around this.”
As he works in the ‘pit’ preparing a V8 Scania truck for sale, his steely blue eyes betray no hint of irony. Although it’s a far cry from his other ‘lives’ as a television presenter and professional motorcycle racer, the draughty workshop on the outskirts of Grimsby in north-east Lincolnshire is the centre of his universe, and working there gives him the normality he so craves.
“I never wanted to be famous, in fact I still wouldn’t say that I am famous,” he says. “But I didn’t want any of the attention that comes with the stuff I’ve done – the TV stuff – I never wanted that.”
It was David Beckham who said that the only place in the world where people still don’t recognise him is in the Amazon jungle, which he recently explored on a motorcycle trip with some friends. Martin shifts uncomfortably at the comparison, but acknowledges that he too understands this downside of fame. His way of dealing with it is the polar opposite of Beckham’s though.
“That’s why I never really go out,” he says. “I go to the local shop to get my porridge and my milk, and that’s about it. I’m not a rude person but it’s hard to go to certain places without people pointing because they think they know you. I’ve got a tight circle of mates that I trust 100 per cent. They’re the same mates I’ve had for the last 20 years – kids I’ve grown up with through BMX-ing, mountain-biking and things like that. I’ve only three proper mates, the others come and go.”
It’s a strong work ethic – and a love of the job – that gets Martin out of bed ridiculously early in the morning. By 5.30am he’s already on his push-bike and on the way to the workshop 32 kilometres away, at an independent Scania specialist. His boss Mick Moody helps him keep his feet on the ground by providing this safe haven for Guy – not because of any sentiment for the lad, but because he believes that Martin is the best truck fitter in the county.
What I like about Guy is his thoroughness,” confirms Mick. “He won’t cut any corners and he knows how to repair things. I moan about him because he costs me a lot of money but the end result is that everything goes out right. He’s first class and I think he’s the best in this area, or certainly one of the best. He needs normality in his life though – that’s why he comes here. If he didn’t have that normality, he’d just run amok. It’s actually a relief when he disappears to go filming for a few days, because he has us all running around. Some times it feels like I’m working for him!”
For Guy, having the stability of a regular job and a boss who rewards loyalty with generous flexible working hours has ensured that his long-term commitment remains with Mick, rather than succumbing to the many offers from television executives and producers.
“Yep, Mick’s a good bloke. He leaves it to me,” adds Guy. “If I’m going to be away with the filming, he tells me what needs doing and come hell or high water it’ll be done first. He knows that and he trusts me with that. I’ve been here six years and I was working with my dad 10 years before that. When I started with the TV stuff my dad and I fell out a bit – in fact he sacked me! We did all the filming in one lump over six weeks, which didn’t go down too well. I’ve learnt a lot from that. When I was at my dad’s we used to do all Mick’s work. Then Mick built a garage and wanted a fitter, so that worked out well for me and I ended up with a better job. And I get on better with my dad now too.”
Although reports of Guy’s imminent retirement from motorcycle racing have been somewhat exaggerated, he has confirmed that this year will definitely be his swansong at the Isle of Man TT. Following his team’s decision to switch from Suzuki to BMW power, Guy is going to be riding the German brand’s S 1000 RR race bike on the island in the Senior, Superbike and Superstock TTs. He’s amassed an impressive 15 podium finishes over the years, although the outright TT win still eludes him. However, even if he achieves this elusive victory, he’ll still be calling it a day after this year’s festivities are concluded.
“I’m stopping, come what may,” he confirms. “It’s about knowing when to stop and you’ve got to have that 100 per cent clear in your head. It’s going to be a hard world to get away from because it’s a way of life. There’s all the build-up and drama but I’ve got this here – my job – and I’ve a lot of other stuff as well, and I can put my time into that.”
TV commitments aside, those other things include restoring an old farmhouse, building a ‘Wall of Death’, racing mountain-bikes in the British 24 hour championship and preparing physically and mentally for what he considers to be his biggest challenge yet – a 14-day, 2,700 mile mountain-bike race from Canada to New Mexico in 2016. Then there’s the regular job of course, but that’s all in a day’s work for Guy Martin.