With Macau all done and dusted I can now draw a line under the 2016 season. Macau was a great way to end the year, but I do have a love/hate relationship with the place. When you get there, you see the track and think, “Oh shit, why am I here?” It is proper dangerous. The last thing you want is to be eating your Christmas dinner through a straw in Macau General! But the event is such a great buzz.
It’s funny, I seem to be falling backwards in my results there, but after 19 years I still love it and wouldn’t miss it. This year I thought I had the pace to do a bit, especially as Conor was fourth. And while the top three were a bit out of my reach, I should really have been battling with him. But it wasn’t to be because, after holding third in qualifying for ages, about seven riders pipped me in the last few seconds. I couldn’t believe it, I looked at the results and was like, “What the hell?” The start at Macau is really important and I got quite a good jump, but hesitated slightly into turn one, was a bit lazy into turn two and that basically saw me get rimmed by all the other riders! It’s difficult to come off the third row and get a result, but winner Hicky was next to me on that row so I don’t really have a leg to stand on! No excuses, I rode like a fairy on the first lap and by the time I got my head into gear it was too late. You need to jam it into Lisboa on the first lap and get your elbows out – but that’s easier said than done when you look at the barriers. Not that it stopped grandpa Rutter!
After the racing you load the bike up and start looking forward to 2017, which seems only a few days away. Christmas is just around the corner, then it’s the Phillip Island Classic in January, and then testing will start. My season never really stops, which is why I like to blow off a bit of steam and get a few pints in at Macau. Well I say a few... This year I rolled back to my hotel room at about 8am having been on a drinking session with the lads after the Sunday night presentation. I staggered out of a club at about 7.30am. It was daylight, and I had to catch a 9.20am flight to Japan to meet up with the Mugen guys. As I left the club I had enough time to clock Hutchy stood on top of a gold bull before I grabbed a McDonalds and legged (weaved) my way to the hotel. Luckily I had taken the precaution of pre-packing my bag before I went out!
After grabbing a taxi to the airport I was on the flight and in Tokyo before I knew what was happening. All the Japanese designers were talking to me really excitedly about the changes to the Mugen for 2017, but to be honest not much was registering. Afterwards I went for a night out with Mr Honda, which was a bit bizarre. Just 24 hours earlier I was in a club in Macau, now I was out on the town with Mr Honda. It was all a bit surreal...
Almost as soon as I got home I was off to the NEC bike show, then the Autosport Awards, and the next day the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) for a lunch. The Autosport Awards was a nice day out for the missus and me and I got to present Marc Marquez with his trophy. He wasn’t actually there but Freddie Spencer picked it up for him, which was cool. It was funny – Nigel Mansell was up on stage talking about safety and he said, “Car races are nothing like what John McGuinness does,” and got me to stand up – I felt like a right bell-end. Afterwards we went out for few drinks with Mark Webber. You can tell he has retired; he even had a bacon buttie and a few G&Ts!
At the BRDC lunch I was given honorary membership, which was a great honour, but meant I had to go out and buy a sports jacket – it was £11 from a second-hand shop. I can now get into the posh bit at Silverstone and I suspect there is a special handshake I’ll need to learn in the near future...
But the sports jacket wasn’t my only purchase this month – I’ve also bought a Bentley! It’s a full on pimp-spec 2002 Bentley Arnage and while it cost about £170,000 back in the day, it actually hardly cost me anything. The missus went mental, she hates it! In the back is a drinks decanter, and it has a 6.75 twin turbo V8 with 540bhp – it’s bloody frightening because it handles like a half-filled bath. I even use it for the school run, which turns a few heads in Morecambe – I’m considering getting a monocle and a deerstalker so I look like a Lord. I’m going to take Maisie to her school play in it. She is playing a bossy angel and was struggling with one of her lines, so I said to her, “Just be like your mother...” That comment might just bite me on the arse, because kids always grass you up.
John McGuinness, road racer.