John McGuinness and his Honda TT Legends team were forced to retire from the opening round of the Endurance World Championship at the weekend, the first time they’ve failed to finish one of the 24 hour races.
Competing at the 24 Hour Bol d’Or event at Magny Cours, France, McGuinness joined team-mates Simon Andrews, Michael Dunlop and Michael Rutter and with all four posting similar lap times the combined times saw them line up in ninth on the grid with Rutter the unlucky rider to miss out in the race.
With the race getting underway at 3pm on Saturday afternoon, John was given the responsibility of starting the race for the team and the first few hours saw him, Andrews and Dunlop work their way up to an excellent third place as evening fell.
Light rain added to the drama but whilst a few teams ran into issues, John and his team-mates kept everything together and were still running in a strong fourth as morning came.
However, with a quarter of the race still to run, they encountered problems and Dunlop was forced into an unscheduled pit-stop, the team eventually diagnosing a problem with the heat exchanger.
John re-joined the race but damage to the engine proved irreparable and he was forced to pull out and retire at the 18-hour mark.
It brought to an end the team’s excellent run of seven successive finishes in the EWC and, as they enter their third year of competition, it also spelt their first retirement in a 24 hour race.
John said: “We’re all gutted not to have finished and after practice and qualifying, we were looking really good.
“We were all pretty similar in lap times throughout the week and that consistency was paying dividends as we moved up into the top three.
“We slipped back slightly to fourth but were still having a great ride only for problems to get the better of us. The Endurance World Championship is a tough old game and we all know it’s never over until it’s over but for it to all go wrong when it did is tough to take.”
“The whole team’s worked so, so hard and done so much work on the bike and I just feel for everyone that we’ve been forced to retire. I’m just gutted to be honest and it’s a tough one to take right now but, on the plus side, we were really competitive and were running close to our main rivals so we’ll look to build on that at the next round.”
The next round of the EWC takes place at Suzuka, Japan on July 28 but John has plenty of racing between now and then and will be back in action on May 4-6 at Oulton Park, Cheshire for round 3 of the Pirelli National Superstock 1000cc Championship.