Preview: 2016 Isle of Man TT – Island life blasts into action.

Pacemaker Press, Belfast: 05/06/2015: John McGuinness on the Honda Racing Fireblade at Crosby during qualifying for the 2015 Monster Energy Isle of Man TT. Picture by Dave Kneen

By Philip Wain

With a long break now in the BSB calendar, it’s time to go road racing again – and it’s the big one, the Isle of Man TT Races.

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The recent North West 200 may have given an indication of form but it’s fair to say a number of riders see the TT as their main event and experience will again count. And when it comes to experience, John McGuinness has it in abundance

Having recently celebrated his 44th birthday, McGuinness made his TT debut in 1996 and now has 23 wins and 44 podiums to his name as well as the outright lap record. The Honda Racing rider may not have set the world alight at the NW200 but everyone know he’s at his happiest, and most competitive, around the Mountain Course so he’s still the man to beat.

“I made some good steps forward with the bikes at the North West, especially the Superbike,” says McGuinness. “It’s essentially the bike I rode in 2008 but we’ve got some new bodywork and have made a few little tweaks here and there whilst I went through the speed trap at 204mph! We’re definitely in the ball park so I don’t think we’ll be far away. I was very competitive in all of my races so there’s plenty of encouragement and confidence to take to the TT.”

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If the form guide is anything to go by, the two closest challengers should be Michael Dunlop and Ian Hutchinson. The latter has been flying all year long with three podiums in three races in the Pirelli National Superstock 1000 Championship as well as a scintillating display at the NW200. A hat-trick winner last year, he’s hungry for more on the Tyco BMW’s.

“Getting back to the top level at the TT was what kept me going,” says Hutchinson in reference to his long absence from racing. “I love racing at the TT and, for me, like many riders, it’s my main event. I’m in my element riding around the place and the buzz is like nothing else. It means a lot to everyone to win a TT, not just the rider. Other race wins can get forgotten but everyone remembers who’s won a TT.”

Dunlop’s also hungry after a disappointing 2015 and his Superbike win at the NW200 shows he’s at the top of his game. Crucially, he’s also happy to be back with his favoured Hawk Racing BMW team so he could get back to the dominance he showed in 2013 and 2014.

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Bruce Anstey won his first Superbike TT race at the TT last year and the Valvoline Racing/Padgetts Honda was quickest through the speed trap in Ireland so if he’s back to full fitness after his spill two weeks ago, he could well add to his tally of 10 TT wins. Given the recent news that the flying Kiwi is going to be racing on a Padgetts RC213V-S, the exotic MotoGP-roadbike from Honda, in both the Superbike and Senior races… and that bike makes more power and is lighter than the pukka superbikes, then eyes have to be on the bearded wonder and the bike underneath him for something special.

Kawasaki meanwhile have two great chances with James Hillier and Peter Hickman. The former took three podiums last year and is the third fastest rider ever around the 37 and ¾ mile course but whilst he may get overlooked when it comes to predicting a winner, he’ll definitely be there or thereabouts. So too will Hickman. It may only be his third year but he’s already lapped at 131.626mph and with wins already at the Ulster GP and Macau, as well as two podiums at the NW200 earlier this month, he could produce something spectacular.

One thing that stood out at the North West 200 was the strength in depth of BMW, particularly in the Superstock class, and as well as Dunlop and Hutchinson, Lee Johnston, Gary Johnson, Michael Rutter and Martin Jessopp will all be pushing for the podium.

Throw in the likes of Conor Cummins, Dean Harrison, William Dunlop, Cameron Donald, Dan Kneen, Steve Mercer and Ivan Lintin and we’re all set for a humdinger of a fortnight so good luck to everyone and here’s to a safe and successful 2016 TT.

 

 

Tony Carter

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