2017 racing action kicks of with World Superbikes in February. Here’s our lowdown on what’s new and what you need to know.
The Isle of Man Festival of Motorcycling
This next fortnight sees the Isle of Man’s hallowed Mountain Course play host to some of the finest road racers on the planet once more with the third incarnation of the Festival of Motorcycling taking place.
Taking place annually between August and September, the Festival’s showcase event is the Classic TT Races, which take place over the Bank Holiday weekend and pays tribute to over 100 years of racing on the Isle of Man.
The main attractions:
Also on the schedule is the Manx Grand Prix Races for modern machines, the ever popular Vintage Motor Cycle Club Rally, Festival of Jurby and the Classic and Two Day off road Trials. Capping off the fortnight’s motorcycling celebrations will be period events, exhibitions of exotic classic racing motorcycles, chat shows and autograph sessions with legendary riders, parade laps, air displays and family entertainment.
First held in 2013, the Classic TT races will again be the centrepiece of the festival and they’ve gone from strength to strength in a very short space of time with this year seeing as many as 90 entries in each class – 350cc and 500cc Classic and Formula One and Formula Two.
Indeed, the rider entry mirrors that of its more famous big brother, June’s TT Races with as many as 12 potential race winners in each class and tremendous strength in depth. And whilst some traditionalists may scoff at the format, structure and, particularly, the rules the races undertake, there can be no doubt the Classic TT is delivering everything the Isle of Man Government wanted it to.
Popularity of the event growing at an extraordinary rate:
Introduced as a necessary measure to revitalise what was previously the Manx Grand Prix fortnight, attendance figures for the Classic TT races have almost doubled in just two years with both on and off track activity better than it’s ever been and continuing to cater for all ages.
Which racers can we expect to see? An impressive line up:
The four races will see practically all of the TT stars from June compete at least once with some competing in the maximum three possible. Only Ian Hutchinson and Guy Martin are missing from the line-up with the likes of John McGuinness, Bruce Anstey, James Hillier, Michael and William Dunlop, Gary Johnson, Lee, Johnston, Dean Harrison, Michael Rutter, Ryan Farquhar, Keith Amor, Conor Cummins, Dan Kneen, Peter Hickman and Ivan Lintin all in attendance.
A relaxed rule book brings greater opportunities:
Competing on a variety of machinery that ranges from an ex-500cc YZR Yamaha Grand Prix bike to exotic Italian Paton’s and newly developed four-valve Manx Norton’s, the fact the rulebook has been relaxed, instead of tightened, has allowed the on-track racing to flourish.
With the Classic Manx GP races seeing dwindling entries, the opposite is now the case as the engineers and mechanical geniuses such as Andy Molnar, Roger Winfield, Brian Richards, Davies Motorsport, Ripley Land and Black Eagle Racing can finally do the things they’ve wanted to do all along.
The purists may turn their noses up at the authenticity of the Classic machines but as a spectacle, the event is first class and one that everyone wants to be part of. Where else can you see a fully-fledged Grand prix motorbike take on an RC30 Honda, ZXR750 Kawasaki and XR69 Suzuki?
Expect to see some big names:
Off track, the two previous years have seen some of the finest names in the world of motorcycling be in attendance, taking part in parade laps on the Mountain Course and at the Festival of Jurby, held in between the two race days. And this year will be no exception with the Classic Racer parade lap seeing no less than 15 former TT winners on track with 95 victories and 209 podiums between them!
Honouring legendary racers:
Last year saw the career of Joey Dunlop as the central theme of the celebrations and this time it’s the turn of Norton with both Geoff Duke and the Manx Norton being honoured. In addition, the Mountain Course will play host to no less than 13 of the rotary Norton’s that enjoyed massive success in the British Superbike Championships of the late 1980s and early 1990s and on the roads with former stars Trevor Nation, Steve Cull Ian Simpson just three of the names scheduled to participate.
Many of the riders have commented about the relaxed atmosphere surrounding the event – although the racing continues to be fiercely competitive – and the same applies for the race fan. With less hustle and bustle compared to the TT proper, riders and machines are even more accessible with the open paddock policy adopted by the organisers clearly paying dividends.
And with ITV4 there once more to cover all the action, the Classic TT will once again be showcased to millions.
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.