Earlier this week, we gave you a basic explanation of the Isle of Man TT, sort of a primer for noobs. As a follow-up, here’s a guide to who’s racing this year, and what to expect in the next few days.
The Isle of Man TT racing is about to get underway with three very familiar faces missing.
John McGuinness and Guy Martin, arguably the two most popular riders at the TT in the past decade, are both on the sidelines this year after massive crashes on the factory Honda last year. McGuinness’s crash came at the North West 200 just before last year’s TT, and Guy Martin’s crash came during the Superbike race. Both incidents were blamed on mechanical failures.
It’s been a long, long road back to recovery for McGuinness. He’s still sporting some serious hardware in his right leg, and although he was slated to race a Honda CBR600RR for Michael Dunlop’s team and a Norton in the Superbike and Senior TT events, he eventually had to bow out and miss this year’s races. As for Guy Martin, he was supposed to be knocking around the Irish street circuit scene this year, with a possibility for the IOMTT, but he missed Cookstown due to mechanicals and won’t be racing at the Isle of Man either, although he’s still racing—he was in an endurance event at Donington Park last weekend.
The third rider missing is Bruce Anstey. The New Zealander won last year’s TT Zero electric race, and also earned a first and second at the Classic TT races later in the season. Sadly, Anstey is battling cancer and is unable to race this year.
Another big name who’s out of contention is Cameron Donald, who’s taking a turn as a TV presenter instead after retiring a few years back, un-retiring, then retiring again. He was at the Classic TT event last year, but it seems he’s done for the main show. William Dunlop is also out, after banging up his back badly at the North West 200 earlier this month.
One of this year’s strongest contenders was Dan Kneen, who was killed in a crash in practice on Wednesday.
With those riders all out of the running, who’s left? Plenty of big names are still in contention, but the fiercest battle is likely between Northern Ireland’s Michael Dunlop and Brit rider Ian Hutchinson. Hutchinson is fourth in all-time TT wins, with 16 race victories; Dunlop has 15, and he’d dearly like to catch up and surpass the oft-injured Hutchinson this year. Hutchinson is still recovering from crack-ups at least year’s Senior TT (he had his left leg lengthened by 40 mm after having his ankle removed). He’s competed in some club events and has been deemed fit to race, but surely it’s not going to be easy to be on top. Add in that now he’s aboard the Honda Racing bike, which certainly picked up a bad rep last year (see the misadventures of McGuinness and Martin above). He’s got his work cut out.
Meanwhile, Dunlop is looking pretty strong as he’s been laying down blistering times in practice and breaking lap records again. Word on the street is that his Tyco BMW team really, really wants to get its HP4 Race machine on the street for this year’s TT, although we don’t know yet which bike he’s going to use.
As for the rest of the crowd: Conor Cummins is back this year, as are Dean Harrison (who’s looking especially good in practice as well, with wicked-hot laps), Peter Hickman, and Michael Rutter. Any one of those riders can win an event, and they’re all certainly podium threats.
BSB star Josh Brookes is back at the TT this year, and although he’s never podiumed, he’s earned some top-10 finishes and is a threat in 2018, for sure.
TT Zero shake-up
While it’s hard to predict the TT, there’s one event that’s guaranteed a shake-up, and that’s the TT Zero.
The TT Zero is the single-lap electric motorcycle race that probably charts the future for battery bike racing, but is generally maligned by fans. For the past four years, Team Mugen has won the event, and looked pretty strong going into 2018 with an improved bike and Anstey, McGuinness and Lee Johnston all signed to race the machine. But with Anstey and McGuinness out, the team’s not looking as strong now, although Johnston has podiumed at the event before and certainly could win.
But it’s a bad situation for the TT Zero, as the presence of Anstey and McGuinness certainly lent it a bit of credibility, and without those established stars, interest will likely dwindle.
The electric race has already claimed bits first victim, as the University of Bath’s bike burned in its van earlier in the week. The university bike was built by students as a research project, with Matthew Rees scheduled to ride it, but a malfunction left it burnt to a crisp.
Practice is already underway, and qualifying starts today (May 28). In theory, the real racing starts this Saturday (June 2) with the six-lap Superbike TT, and ends next Friday (June 8) with the Senior TT.
But, the TT is always at the mercy of the weather, so don’t be surprised to see things start late, early, or not at all. Keep an eye on the TT website’s schedule here for changes.
How to follow the racing
If you can figure out how to access Britains ITV4 channel, you can watch Isle of Man highlights on there; Discovery was said to be picking up US broadcasting rights, but a quick scan through Discovery and subsidiary Velocity doesn’t show any IOMTT materiel on the schedule anytime soon.
That leaves the official Isle of Man TT video coverage, which will cost you £9.99 for access. More details at the Isle of Man website here.
Another way to follow the racing is through Manx Radio TT. You can download the app for this radio channel on your smartphone and listen to the broadcasts of commentary and racing action, or follow the broadcasting team through the Manx Radio Facebook page or YouTube channel.