Preview of the 2017 Isle of Man TT

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Last year saw the Isle of Man TT distilled into a rivalry between Michael Dunlop and Ian Hutchinson. They arrive on the island this year to once again take center stage.

The rivalry between Michael Dunlop and Ian Hutchinson defined last year’s TT, and that is because the duo shared the five wins between each other, but at times it seemed as though shared respect was in short supply.

Last year with both riders using BMW machinery for the big bikes, and the Yamaha YZF-R6 in the supersport class, there was no where to hide at the end of races. It simply came down to preparation and execution, and last year the score was 3-2 in Hutchinson’s favor.

The man who won an incredible, and unmatched, five races at the 2010 festival is once again the man to beat this year, as he continues to ride for the crack Tyco BMW squad, with Dunlop making the switch to Suzuki to ride their all-new GSX-R1000.

After last year’s Senior TT, the acrimony that had been building throughout the fortnight reached a crescendo with the post-race press conference. With Hutchinson threatening to retire from racing and claiming factory favoritism towards Dunlop, the paddock was gripped by the next great rivalry in road racing.

Organizers for the TT have done little to quench the flames of that rivalry, with fans able to purchase race programmes with either Dunlop or Hutchinson on the cover. Road racing is big business once again, and it is big box office because of rivalries such as this.

Last year the on-track action was as hot as anybody could remember. Media personnel who had been going to the TT for over 40 years spoke about the brilliant riding in hushed tones.

With almost perfect weather throughout the fortnight the race track resembled a short circuit because of how much rubber was laid down and the riders offered up a masterpiece.

In final practice, the gauntlet was laid down by both riders and it sounded out across the island. They were the men to beat, and they wanted to assert their dominance before the start of race week.

During that session, traditionally used to bed in some parts for the rest of the fortnight, or if weather has been bad to test some settings, nobody expected the times to be fast. Instead, on the opening laps both Hutchinson and Dunlop lapped of just under 133mph to shatter the unofficial lap record at that point.

If practice promised much the race week firmly delivered. Hutchinson claimed the honors, in both 600cc races and also on his superstock BMW. Two wins were Dunlop’s reward, but with one being the all important Senior TT he ended his week with the big prize.

The eyes of the racing word will once again be on the pair this year to see who comes out on top. In their overall battle for honors, Hutchinson has drawn level with Mike Hailwood at 14 TT victories, and is one race-victory ahead of Michael Dunlop.

The pair have made it clear that they are the dominant duo of the modern era, but with the TT getting more and more competitive how long can that last?

There is no race meeting that comes close to the Isle of Man TT. The atmosphere is unlike any other and the challenge facing teams and riders is absolutely unique.

The Mountain Course winds its way around the island, with over 200 corners making up a lap of over 37 miles. It is a race unlike any other, and it quickly becomes one of the most addictive challenges any rider will face through their career.

In recent years, the event has exploded once again with interest from all over the world, and that looks only set to blossom once again this year.

The reason for the renewed interest in the TT is due to many factors, but the TV package has been so impressive and immersive in recent years that it has inspired many fans to make their pilgrimage to the race.

For many, it is indeed a pilgrimage. The TT is an event that quickly gets under your skin once you have been able to get to it. The speed, the sound, the level of skill and bravery of the riders makes it a spectacle unlike any other in racing.

With bikes darting from curb to curb, and riding past lamp posts, traffic lights and all other road furniture, it is an intoxicating blend for anyone who witnesses it first hand.

Who will be the riders to beat at this years Isle of Man TT?

Michael Dunlop: The switch to Suzuki has been smoother than when he moved to Yamaha in 2015, but for the upcoming Isle of Man TT Dunlop will be hard pressed to add to his win tally. At the recent North West 200, Dunlop had a podium on his supersport machine, but teething issues with his superbike have cast a worrying shadow on his preparations. Dunlop, winner of two big bike races at last year’s TT, can never be discounted on the island but it will take all of his prodigious ability to bring the fight to Ian Hutchinson.

Ian Hutchinson: Having been undefeated on his Yamaha YZF-R6 for the last two years, it would take a brave gambler to bet against Hutchy in the supersport class, but what of the bigger bikes? Last year the 37-year-old added the superstock victory to his supersport haul, but taking the fight to Michael Dunlop for Senior TT is the clear target for 2017. Having won three races last year, and broken the superstock lap record, at 133mph no less, Hutchinson is well placed to dominate this year’s festival.

Bruce Anstey: As ever the Kiwi is the biggest question mark entering the TT. Will the frighteningly fast and consistent Anstey that has claimed 11 victories on The Mountain Course find his form and challenge for wins…or will the maddeningly inconsistent Anstey appear and only fight for Top 10 honors? With Dunlop and Hutchinson having upped the ante in recent years, and turned the TT into their battleground, Anstey has a chance to fly in under the radar this year.

James Hillier: Three podiums last year show just how consistent Hillier has become in recent years at the TT. Having claimed a rostrum on the supersport bike at the North West 200 – he is rounding into form once again in time for the fortnight. Hillier will once again ride the Kawasaki and lead their charge.

Dean Harrison: The Dean is ready for another strong TT showing, having gained more experience with the Kawasaki. Claiming his first North West 200 podium shows that he is starting to find his form, and is clearly readying himself for a strong showing on the Isle of Man – keen to add to his 2014 Lightweight victory.

Peter Hickman: Can Hickman add a TT trophy to his growing road racing collection? The former Ulster and Macau Grand Prix race winner has made consistent progress. Last year’s switch to Kawasaki led to a host of reliability issues though, but a return to BMW for 2017 on the big bikes should give Hickman a proven weapon underneath him once again. The North West was his first time riding the bike in road-racing trim, so expect him to get faster and faster as the TT progresses.

David Johnson: The Australian will have the honor of starting at number one on his Norton. In the past, this may have been a ceremonial position for the fabled marque, but Norton’s progress has been huge in the last couple of years, and Johnson is now ready to be a leading contender around the 37.75 miles course.

Josh Brookes: The former fastest newcomer returns to the TT, after a two-year hiatus, but the 2015 British Superbike champion is aiming high with the Norton squad in the superbike class. Brookes will be aiming for his first 130mph lap this year, but don’t be surprised to see him take a huge step forward in terms of overall lap-time in his third TT. Having raced in WorldSBK, BSB, and on the roads this will be one of the most varied seasons for a top class rider in memory.

Guy Martin: The biggest wildcard at the TT could be Guy Martin, but apart from the TT Zero, it is almost impossible to even imagine the biggest celebrity in road racing being able to finally win his first TT. Martin has struggled tremendously since returning to the roads this year, and he has been woefully off the pace. It’s possible that he’ll find his form at the TT, but with Honda clearly behind the eight ball it’ll take an awful lot of fortune falling Martin’s way to be a contender.

Tuesday, May 30th
  • 18.20 Solo newcomers
  • 18.25 Sidecar newcomers
  • 18.40 – 19.45 Superbike, Superstock, Supersport inc. newcomers (All classes) except Lightweight
  • 19.50 Sidecars
Wednesday, May 31st
  • 18.20 to 19.40 Superbike/Superstock/Supersport/Newcomers (All Classes except Lightweight) Qualifying
  • 19.45 to 20.40 Sidecars
  • 20.40 to 20.50 TT Zero 1 lap practice
Thursday, June 1st
  • 18.20 to 19.10 Superbike/Superstock/Supersport/Newcomers (All Classes except Lightweight) Qualifying
  • 19.10 to 19.35 Supersport/Lightweight TT/ Newcomers (all Solo classes) Qualifying
  • 19.40 to 20.40 Sidecars
  • 20.40 to 20.50 TT Zero 1 lap practice
Friday, June 2nd
  • 18.20 to 19.40 Superbike/Superstock/Supersport/Newcomers (All Classes except Lightweight) Qualifying
  • 19.45 to 20.40 Sidecars
  • 20.40 to 20.50 TT Zero 1 lap practice
Saturday, June 3rd
  • 11.00 TT Superbike Race (6 laps)
  • 14.00 TT Sidecar Race 1 (3 laps)
  • 15.35 Supersport/Superstock/Lightweight TT Qualifying (2 laps)
  • 16.10 TT Zero Qualifying (1 lap)
Monday, June 5th
  • 10.45 TT Supersport Race 1 (4 laps)
  • 12.30 Sidecar TT Qualifying (2 laps)
  • 14.15 TT Superstock (4 laps)
  • 16.05 Lightweight TT Qualifying (1 lap)
  • 16.20 TT Zero Qualifying (1 lap)
Tuesday, June 6th – (Alternate Race Day)
  • 14.15 Sidecar TT Qualifying (2 laps)
  • 15.40 Lightweight TT Qualifying (1 lap)
  • 15.55 TT Zero Qualifying (1 lap)
Wednesday, June 7th
  • 10.45 TT Supersport Race 2 (4 laps)
  • 12.25 Sidecar TT Qualifying (1 lap)
  • 13.45 TT Lightweight Race (4 laps)
  • 15.40 Senior TT Qualifying (1 lap)
  • 16.25 TT Zero Race (1 lap) 
Thursday, June 8th – (Alternate Race Day)
  • 14.10 Sidecar TT Qualifying (1 lap)
  • 15.25 Senior TT Qualifying (1 lap)
Friday, June 9th
  • 10.30 TT Sidecar Race 2 (3 laps)
  • 12.45 Senior TT Race (6 laps)

This Isle of Man TT story is made possible by our A&R Pro members. If you enjoy our coverage of the TT on Asphalt & Rubber, you should consider supporting this content by signing up for A&R Pro.

Be sure to follow all of our 2017 Isle of Man TT racing coverage this fortnight.

Steve English

"Superbike Steve" is known best for his on-air hosting of the WorldSBK race feed, but when he's not looking pretty for the camera, he is busy writing stories and taking photographs for Asphalt & Rubber.