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A Review of the Road Racing Season 2017
Thrilling season on the roads once more
The 2017 road racing season saw some thrilling battles throughout the British Isles with close races, new names coming to the fore and some established ones continuing their run of form. What made it extra special was that no one rider dominated and expected outcomes were continually turned upside down.
Seeley dominates North West 200 – again
The North West 200 may be the only road race he competes in but Alastair Seeley certainly makes it count and he won four races again this year to dominate the event. Indeed, that total makes him the most successful road racer, in terms of wins, during the 2017 International road race season with Hickman the next best on three wins, all of those coming at the Ulster GP (see below).
However, whilst Seeley won four races at the NW200, he didn’t win the feature Superbike race around the Triangle and that honour – after a simply superb race around the 8.9-mile circuit – went to Glenn Irwin whose victory on the Be Wiser Ducati was certainly the most popular of the day.
It was also a good meeting for Martin Jessopp, who claimed a brace of victories, his first ever at International level, and the evergreen Michael Rutter who took the second Supertwins encounter. The Midlands rider took four podiums in total to move onto a career tally of 31, just one behind Seeley.
The meeting also saw John McGuinness’s season end after a high speed practice crash left him with a badly broken leg and vertebrae.
Hutchinson and Dunlop share TT honours
Weather conditions during practice week played a huge part in the outcome of the solo races at the Isle of Man TT and it took until the closing Senior race before Michael Dunlop added another big bike win to his tally, the Ulsterman lapping at close to 133mph on the all-new Suzuki GSXR1000.
Retirement from the Superbike race paved the way for Ian Hutchinson to take the honours on the Tyco BMW before the Bingley rider claimed another victory in the Superstock race. A heavy crash in the Senior left him with another badly broken leg and a spell on the sidelines once more.
It was Peter Hickman who was the rider of the week with a superb five podiums from his five races whilst Rutter took his fifth TT win in the Lightweight race. Dean Harrison, James Hillier and Dan Kneen also impressed as did the Norton duo of Josh Brookes and David Johnson.
After losing McGuinness to injury at the North West 200, Honda’s other rider, TV star Guy Martin was significantly off the pace as he returned to racing after a year out. Struggling with the all-new Honda Fireblade, Martin crashed at Doran’s Bend on the first lap of the Superbike race – a crash reported to be caused by a false neutral. He took second in the TT Zero race, won by Bruce Anstey, but wouldn’t be seen at a road race again in 2017.
Hickman shines at Dundrod
Smiths Racing BMW rider Hickman dominated practice at the Ulster Grand Prix and, after taking victory in the Dundrod 150 Superbike race, went on to take the Superstock win and a Supersport double on the feature race day.
He had to give best to the wily Anstey in the main Superbike race where Harrison set a new outright lap record, 134.614mph, to become the fastest road racer in the world. Kneen deputised for the injured Hutchinson at Tyco BMW putting in some great rides to earn him a full time ride with the team in 2018.
Lee Johnston and Conor Cummins were in the thick of the action all day whilst Dafabet Devitt Racing’s Ivan Lintin took a thrilling Supertwin race just edging out Dan Cooper.
Tragic end to 2017
The final road race of the season, the Macau Grand Prix, went the way of Irwin who was in imperious form around the Guia circuit but the meeting will always be remembered for the wrong reasons after the race was stopped on the sixth lap due to a crash which sadly claimed the life of 2016 TT Privateer’s Champion Dan Hegarty. Hickman and Rutter took second and third but it was an extremely three subdued and upset riders that stood on the podium.
Harrison, Sheils and McGee dominate National scene
Harrison went through 2017 undefeated at Oliver’s Mount, Scarborough where he also claimed a new outright lap record with Daley Mathison and Lintin his regular challengers. The Bradford rider also won the Southern 100 Solo Championship for the first time where lap records were also smashed.
Meanwhile, in Ireland it was Derek McGee who came out on top being crowned Irish champion in the Superbike, Supersport and Supertwin classes although Derek Sheils won the most races in the Superbike category.
Time to remember
Whilst the 2017 road racing season saw some unbelievable highs, it also saw some extreme lows and as well as Hegarty, Davey Lambert, Jochem van den Hoek, Alan Bonner, Gavin Lupton and Jamie Hodson all paid the ultimate sacrifice for the sport they loved so much. Their memory will live on and everyone at Devitt Insurance will be part of the wider racing community who will always remember what they gave to motorcycle racing.
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.