The 2014 running of the world’s most famous race, the Isle of Man TT, got off to an inauspicious start when heavy rains forced cancellation of the first evening’s practice. Cold and occasionally damp weather is forecast for the rest of two-week event, and considering the 60 km course, ranging from sea-level to the 610 m height of Snaefell Mountain, conditions may well have a large effect on the races.
Strong favourite to win the feature classes is Irishman Michael Dunlop – nephew of the legendary Joey Dunlop – on his new for this year BMW. Dunlop is no stranger to victory on the Island, and threw down a gauntlet by winning both superbike races at the Irish Northwest 200, precursor to the TT.
One of his main rivals, Honda’s John McGuinness, is riding with a recently-broken scaphoid, suffered in a trail riding training accident – he was forced to retire from both races at the Northwest, and his condition is problematic for the TT. With 20 TT victories, he’s second only to Joey Dunlop in overall wins, and is the current lap record holder at 131.587 mph (211.7 km/h).
Still, after practice finally got going and on the second and third days McGuinness was second fastest to Kiwi Bruce Anstey (both riders on Hondas), Anstey lapping just short of the lap record at 130.86 mph, with McGuinness close behind at 129.395. Michael Dunlop was on pace to join their speed but suffered a technical issue on his BMW that aborted his runs.
Guy Martin, probably the fastest rider never to win a TT, was also in the 129 mph range on his Tyco Suzuki, which veteran Michael Rutter and local ace Conor Cummins were close behind. Also in the mix is Ian Hutchinson, winner of five of six races in 2010, but plagued with terrible leg injuries until this year, James Hillier (winner of the 2013 Lightweight race), and Aussie Cameron Donald on, no less, a Norton (one of the new ones!).
Many of the same names are entered in the Lightweight and Supersport divisions as well, so competition should be hard in all classes. Both Rutter and McGuinness are also running again in the TT Zero event for electric bikes, Rutter having won that race the past two years and putting in a 100 mph lap while doing so.
Practice continues each evening this week, with racing starting Monday, June 2.