As May nears to an end and with June on the horizon, that can only mean one thing – it’s time for the Isle of Man TT races to get underway once more. The recent North West 200 gave few indicators as to the form guide with a number of the established guard having relatively low-key meetings so what can we expect from TT2017?
Undoubtedly, the absence of John McGuinness is a huge blow to the event, both on and off the track, and it’s going to be a strange affair not seeing the Morecambe Missile disputing the race wins or having, arguably, the biggest following and support around the paddock.
Michael Dunlop and Ian Hutchinson are, perhaps, the pre-event favourites but a new hero may well have emerged by the time race week is concluded as the opportunities are there to be grasped with both hands.
Dunlop v Hutchinson part 2?
Last year’s TT was all about the battle between Dunlop and Hutchinson with the rivalry between the two clear to see. They won five races between them and are, at present, the only two riders to lap the 37.73-mile course at more than 133mph so that makes them the pairing to beat.
Neither set the world alight at the North West 200 though with both of them having a mixed bag of results. However, both have targeted the TT as their main event and the final Superbike race in Northern Ireland was perhaps the best indicator of what lies ahead.
Dunlop is continuing to adapt to the new Bennetts Suzuki with Hutchinson doing likewise with his now Dunlop-shod Tyco BMW (as opposed to Metzeler) but they finished third and fourth in the feature NW200 Superbike race. And with the two riders that finished in front of them – Glenn Irwin and Alastair Seeley – not contesting the TT, that will give them a great deal of confidence as they head to the little rock in the Irish Sea.
The chasing pack:
As per recent years, the chasing pack is rich in both quality and quantity. Veteran Bruce Anstey had a disappointing time of things at the North West 200 on the Padgetts Honda’s but is sure to be a different proposition at his favourite event whilst regular podium finisher James Hillier should again be challenging across the classes on the JG Speedfit Kawasaki.
Dean Harrison (Silicone Engineering Kawasaki) had a great TT this time last year and is expected to make another step forward in 2017 so don’t be surprised if he claims his second TT win with Peter Hickman expected to be in contention for his first. The fastest newcomer ever, and now the fourth fastest rider ever, Hickman is searching for his maiden TT podium, something he has a great chance of achieving on the Smiths Racing BMW’s.
Michael Rutter is riding as well as ever on the Bathams/SMT Racing BMWs so cannot be ruled out with Lee Johnston (East Coast Construction BMW), Conor Cummins (Padgetts Honda), William Dunlop (Temple Golf Club Yamaha), Gary Johnson (Suzuki), double NW200 race winner Martin Jessopp (Riders Motorcycles BMW), David Johnson (Norton Racing) and the Dafabet Devitt Racing pairing of Steve Mercer and double Lightweight TT winner Ivan Lintin also looking to impress.
Two high-profile riders will be making their return to the TT, Guy Martin for the first time since 2015 and Josh Brookes for the first time since 2014 but they’ve had vastly different run-ups to the event.
Martin’s return was, without doubt, the biggest news of the winter but in the races he’s contested since coming back to the sport he’s been, seemingly, a shadow of his former self. Like many, he’s been looking at the TT and the bigger picture and whilst getting results at the likes of Tandragee and the North West wasn’t his priority, he would have been hoping for more before TT practice gets underway.
With team-mate McGuinness injured, the Lincolnshire rider is now spearheading Honda’s attack but both rider and manufacturer will need a sharp upturn in their fortunes if they’re to feature prominently on the leaderboard.
Brookes, meanwhile, has had a strong start to his BSB season and although he’s on different machinery at the TT, the Australian appears to be in confident mood. The Norton has made further strides forward since twelve months ago and 130mph+ laps look to be well on the cards once more whilst he’s recently secured highly competitive machinery for the Supersport and Lightweight classes too.
However, it is only his third year of TT competition and whilst the 33-year old is the epitome of professionalism, it may take him a few sessions to get dialled into the Mountain Course. Expect him to get stronger and stronger as the fortnight progresses.
The racing is again expected to be hard fought, fast and spectacular but what everyone wants more than anything else is a good, safe two weeks of action. Anything else will be a bonus, whether it’s the weather, record laps or races decided by seconds so everyone at Devitt wishes all the competitors the very best of luck.
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.