They say that behind every great man there is a great woman.
And this is definitely the case for motorcycle star John McGuinness.
John and his wife Becky reveal how their relationship has survived 28 years of ups and downs in the TT legend’s new autobiography ‘Built For Speed’.
From the time they first met in Morecambe as teenagers and throughout all his 23 wins around the iconic Isle of Man road race circuit, Becky has been with John for every step.
“I’ve held his hand and his spare visors for more than 350 races,” she writes in the book’s foreword.
“The crashes, the wins, the deaths and all the miles in between, I’ve laughed and cried with John all the way.”
McGuinness himself admits that Becky “deserves a medal”.
“It’s stressful, racing, so sometimes you can be a bit grumpy and the first person you take it out on is your missus,” said the man dubbed ‘The Morecambe Missile’.
“But she was there putting the fuel in my bike on my first TT and in a couple of weeks’ time we’re going to the TT again and she’ll be right by my side again. She’s never missed any of my racing.
“At times it has been a bit rocky. You can’t be with someone for 27 years and not have a detour. But we’re fine. It’s nice that we’re still together.
“At the end of the day I’m still John McGuinness the brickie from Morecambe. I’m still scruffy old John. And she’s been the same right through it all too.”
The frank, down-to-earth honesty is typical of John’s new book.
Motorcycling fans will love the thrilling accounts of his victories, thoughts on his opponents through the years, and his passion for the motorbikes he has ridden all over the world.
There are also gritty passages about his life growing up in Morecambe.
He writes about coming into the world by forceps delivery in the Queen Victoria Hospital on April 16 1972, joking about his “massive moon head” covered in marks and his mum “wondering if she’d been given the right baby”.
His memories turn to growing up in the family’s three-bedroomed terrace on Granville Road in the West End and of hanging around the motorbike shop on White Lund where his dad John Snr worked.
He writes about school life at Sandylands Primary and Heysham High, meeting Becky who lived across the road, and struggling to make ends meet in his early years while working as a brickie, helping to build homes and businesses in Morecambe, and as a mussel fisherman working alongside Becky’s dad.
“You’d be out there at 4am watching the sun rise,” he said, recalling those days on Morecambe Bay.
“It was good for fitness for racing and it was good fun flying down the prom on an old 1968 Nuffield tractor with a trailer on the back with five or six lads on the back.
“I don’t think you’d get away with that these days, the health and safety man would have your pants down!
“Morecambe was cool, we had fairgrounds, and even though we’ve lost some of these things I’m still proud of strolling up the prom on a nice day watching the sunset over the Lake District. It brought me up in a honest way.”
The book also covers his relationship with other members of his family, including the couple’s two children Ewan and Maisie and John’s dad John McGuinness Senior, who he credits with igniting his love of motorcycles.
“All I had my sights on from an early age was racing motorbikes,” he said.
“It was my dad who got me into it. As a kid he kicked me up the backside and sent me out riding around White Lund on a little Italjet 50CC motorbike.
“Later my dad wanted, deep down, for me to be a professional motorcross rider or scrambler. When I wanted to go road racing he wasn’t happy.
“I can understand it. I can’t imagine for what it’s like for my mum, dad, my missus, to watch me at the TT and go round that track. It must be pretty horrendous.
“But they are 100 per cent behind me now. My dad is still my number one fan.”
Ghost written by motorsport journalist John Hogan, the book also includes comments from McGuinness’ friend, TV personality and his team-mate for Honda, Guy Martin.
‘Built for Speed’ has been six years in the making and John says he’s very proud of it.
But the competitive instinct that rose him to second on the all-time list of TT race wins, behind his idol the late Joey Dunlop, means that he is desperate for the book to be a success.
“I don’t want the book to fail,” he said.
“I want people to read it and enjoy it. Failing worries me.
“I’ve travelled around the world, met so many great people, met some not-so-great people, ridden with some great teams.
“It’s been a hell of a journey and it’s all there in 90,000 words. And I want people to feel like they’ve come on the journey with me.”
You can go on that journey with John McGuinness in ‘Built For Speed’, available now.