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 Return of the 250cc Two-Strokes
The growth of the Classic TT Races on the fabled Isle of Man’s Mountain Course was further emphasised recently with the announcement that a new class will be added to the programme of events, one that will certainly ring a chord with the die-hard enthusiasts – the return of the 250cc two-strokes.
A 250cc race, or Lightweight in another guise, was part of the TT Races from 1922 all the way through until 2002 with all races taking place on the 37.73-mile course with the exception of the 1954-59 period when then ran on the shorter 10.92 mile Clypse Course.
From 1949 until 1976 it counted as a round of the 250cc World Championship with riders such as Mike Hailwood, Derek Minter, Phil Read, Bill Ivy all taking victories. As the 1970s progressed so too did the domination of the two-strokes and with Yamaha, Armstrong, EMC and Honda all in the ascendancy, new names came to the fore.
Lightweight TT on borrowed time:
However, as we all know, by the time we reached the 2000s, 250s were becoming a thing of the past as the four-stroke classes took over and with the last 250cc British Championship taking place in 2001, the Lightweight TT was on borrowed time.
Was the TT shrinking?
Numbers had dwindled at the TT despite names like Joey Dunlop, John McGuinness and Bruce Anstey taking the race wins. However, with no main Championship on the mainland, many riders switched class, Supersport for example, and although it still continued in Ireland, entries continued to fall as spares and machines became harder to come by.
In 2008, the TT organisers made an effort to revitalise the class, re-introducing the Lightweight TT but on the Billown Course in the south of the island. With the 125s back on the schedule as well, it seemed like an idea well worth pursuing but it was almost a half-hearted effort and only lasted two years.
The ever popular Classic TT:
However, since the inaugural year in 2013, the Classic TT has gone from strength to strength with more and more teams, sponsors, riders and enthusiasts supporting the event. And the organisers feel the time is now right to re-introduce the 250s.
The Lightweight Classic TT Race, as it will be known, will be open to all 250cc GP bikes and will also absorb the machines from the previously staged Formula 2 Classic TT Race, with those machines featuring in their own sub class.
More the Modern TT than the Classic TT:
Many die-hards have criticised the Classic TT for its loose interpretation of the rules, citing many of the machines in the races as being too modern. And whilst it’s not quite a case of ‘anything goes’, there’s certainly a blind eye turned to a number of areas.
However, that openness and flexibility is ultimately its strength and the organisers are astute enough to realise that if they did stick to the original Classic rules, there wouldn’t be full grids and there certainly wouldn’t be much interest in the event. And with no interest, there’s no fans and with no fans, there’s no financial viability for the event, which is, basically, what it all comes down to.
Hopeful for a strong line up:
Paul Phillips, TT & Motorsport Development Manager, is hopeful of seeing around 50 entries and if that’s achieved, it will be an undoubted success. Some sceptics will question if that’s going to possible but it’s surprising where machines crop up from and with the event having such credibility, owners and teams want to be associated with the event and will be more likely to let their machines loose on the Mountain Course.
And already, TT riders are committing to the race and pictures appearing on social media with them with their expected mounts. The sight and sound of the two-strokes has never left the heart of those connected with the sport and early indications are more than promising that a strong grid will be lining up on Glencrutchery Road come August.
Best in the world!
The three races already in existence at the Classic TT, the Superbike, Senior and Junior have been undoubted success stories with the racing seeing both quality and quantity. In just the space of three years it’s established itself as the leading Classic event of its kind anywhere in the world. It’s now a permanent fixture in the diaries of many and it’s only going to get better.
The Classic TT takes place over August Bank Holiday weekend with the Senior Classic and Lightweight Classic TT races taking place on Saturday 27th August and the Junior Classic and Superbike Classic TT races on Monday 29th August.
Will you be happy to see the 250cc two-strokes making a come back? Why not share your views below…
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.