2017 racing action kicks of with World Superbikes in February. Here’s our lowdown on what’s new and what you need to know.
Southern 100 – Not for the Faint Hearted
We recently saw the Isle of Man’s ‘other’ road race celebrate its 60th anniversary and whilst the Southern 100 may not be on everyone’s radar, it’s certainly an event worth seeing.
Taking place on the 4.25-mile Billown course on the outskirts of Castletown, the island’s original capital, the Southern 100 has seen many a road racing great compete and this year saw its usual array of stars on the entry, most notably Guy Martin, Michael Dunlop, Dan Kneen, Dean Harrison and World Sidecar Champion Tim Reeves.
True, the strength in depth was a little lacking but that shouldn’t detract from what was, as always, an excellently run meeting.
Running like clockwork:
The Southern 100 club run the meeting like clockwork and if the schedule says a practice session will start at 6.37pm, you can bet your bottom dollar that it’ll start at 6.37pm! However, whilst attendance figures for the event continue to rise, the small, but enthusiastic, club are facing problems similar to those throughout the road racing world – a lack of young blood.
New members waiting in the wings:
The club is full of members who have been carrying out their roles for years well into double figures and a picture of them in the official race programme shows that there’s a distinct lack of the younger generation.
Experience is vital for any race meeting but the long term survival needs fresh impetus and new members waiting in the wings to take other as and when the time arrives.
Where will we be without Hillaby?
The same can be said at Oliver’s Mount, Scarborough where racing has mainly continued thanks to the determination and hours of dedication of Peter Hillaby. He’s seen the meeting see both good and bad times – indeed, extinction has been a possibility on more than one occasion – and has fulfilled practically every role in almost 50 years at the circuit.
He’s slowly taking a back seat but is still involved heavily and one can’t help but wonder what may happen when he finally steps down.
Martin and Dunlop head to head:
Coming back to this year’s Southern 100 and although the first two days of action were all but wiped out by heavy rain, conditions on Wednesday and Thursday were ideal for some high speed, thrilling road racing and that’s exactly what we got.
Martin and Dunlop went head to head in three races and it was one win and a second apiece before the feature Solo Championship race.
Dunlop makes way:
Unfortunately, Dunlop suffered a low speed spill on just the third lap denying the large crowd another nail-biter but Manxman Kneen stepped up to the challenge and ensure Martin had to work all the way for his win, the third year in a row he’s been victorious.
The sidecar races too were some of the best ever witnessed around the demanding circuit with Reeves, Ian and Carl Bell and John Holden/Dan Sayle never more than inches apart.
McGuinness, Hutchinson and Anstey steer clear of Billown Circuit:
The Billown circuit certainly isn’t for the faint hearted being lined with stone walls typical of those found in the south of the Isle of Man whilst its bumps and narrowness also give competitors plenty to think about. But speeds are still high with Harrison’s 2014 outright lap record in excess of 114mph.
Martin and Dunlop thrill seekers:
It’s inherent dangers have kept some of the established names, like John McGuinness, Ian Hutchinson and Bruce Anstey, away over the years but Martin and Dunlop support it year in year out with the former openly declaring that it’s his favourite meeting of the year.
Let’s see the Southern 100 grow!
There’s clearly the rider support there though – this year saw full grids for every race – so let’s hope the off track activity is equally flourishing and the next few years see the younger generation taking a more active interest in the organisation and promotion of the event. If that happens, the Southern 100 will continue to grow and see its fortunes, in all aspects, go from strength to strength.
Should the Southern 100 be celebrated more? Are McGuinness, Hutchinson and Anstey right to be steering clear of this race? What’s your opinion?
Having started watching motorcycle races all over the world form childhood, Phil Wain has been a freelance motorcycle journalist for 15 years and is features writer for a number of publications including BikeSport News and Classic Racer, having also been a regular contributor to MCN and MCN Sport. He is PR officer for a number of teams and riders at both the British Superbike Championship and International road races, including Smiths Triumph, Quattro Plant Kawasaki, John McGuinness, Ryan Farquhar and Keith Amor. He is also heavily involved with the Isle of Man TT Races, writing official press releases and race reports as well as providing ITV4 with statistical information.