The Lightweight TT each year proves itself to be one of the most popular classes at the Isle of Man TT. Originally conceived as a three-lap race, where pit stop strategy added to the intrigue, the “junior” class is now a four-lap affair.
Designed to be a proving ground for younger riders, now we see the big names in the class as well, with Ian Hutchinson, Michael Dunlop, Peter Hickman and others testing their mettle on the 650cc twin-cylinder bikes.
The final race on Wednesday, TT fans were treated to a strong race, which had several lead changes, and plenty of lap records.
After a thrilling start to race week, today’s action has a lot to live up to. Wednesday’s lineup will offer nine laps of racing across the Supersport, Lightweight, and TT Zero classes.
The trio of Michael Dunlop, Peter Hickman, and Dean Harrison have dominated the week so far, and it’s almost certain that they will once again be the men to beat in the Superport class.
But in the Lightweight class, the likes of Ivan Lintin and a host of others will feel they can contend.
Wednesday’s second race for the day saw the small bikes of the Bennetts Lightweight TT take to the Mountain Course for the 2017 Isle of Man TT.
The four-lap race saw Michael Rutter finish on the top step of the podium, giving Italian marque Paton its first manufacturer win ever at the Isle of Man TT. In the process of that victory (Rutter’s fifth total), Rutter set a new Lightweight TT record, posting a 118.645 mph lap.
Rutter lead the entire race, from the starter’s flag to the checkered flag, with Martin Jessopp finishing second, and Peter Hickman finishing third.
Michael Dunlop had a new engine flown in by private jet, and was up till gone 4am on the morning of the race fitting the engine.
Ivan Lintin, the winner of the Lighweight TT, was spectacular over Ballaugh Bridge.
William Dunlop was 2nd in the TT Zero on the Victory.
Last to go on Wednesday for the Isle of Man TT, the Bennetts Lightweight TT features “super twin” four-stroke machines, of up to 650cc in displacement.
The weapon of choice in the class has been the Kawasaki Ninja 650, but that is slowly changing. Gary Johnson, for instance, has made a good show of things with the Chinese CF Moto.
Though any rider can compete in the Lightweight TT category, the class is seen by many as a stepping stone onto a supersport or bigger bike. As such, many of the TT’s upcoming stars feature in the Lightweight TT.
A four-lap race this year, the Lightweight TT in the past has been a three-lap contest, which brought a bit of strategy into play on when to take a pit stop. Now four laps, that intrigue has been removed, but given riders a more difficult contest on machines not designed for racing.
It’s been 2015 Isle of Man TT since the Isle of Man TT, but preparations are already underway for the 2016 event.
Announcing a new timetable of events for the 2016 Isle of Man TT, the Manx organizers have made it so the solo class and sidecar class champions crowned on the same day.
Accordingly, this means that the Senior TT will remain on the final Friday (June 10th) of racing, capping the fantastic road racing event, but now it will be joined by the second Sidecar TT race as well, which will lead the final day’s activities.
Making way for the sidecars, the Lightweight TT will be moved to the now vacant racing slot, on Wednesday (June 8th). Additionally, the TT race organizers have made the Lightweight TT a four-lap race, so as to reflect the growing popularity and stature of the class.
For the final day of racing at the 2015 Isle of Man TT, and I headed to the north of the Island, as I had a brief to photograph the Lightweight race from the Ginger Hall section in Sulby. Just after the Sulby Straight, the Ginger Hall is very popular with fans, mainly due to the pub that gives the section its name.
After the Lightweight race, I drove the few miles to Ramsey and to the spectacular Milntown jump. From there, it was a brief stop at Parliament Square in the center of Ramsey before driving back to the Grandstand for the podium celebrations.
Above: John McGuinness plants a kiss on the Senior TT trophy.
The final day of racing at the Isle of Man TT is usually set by two extremes: the “beginner class” Lightweight TT and the blue-ribbon event, the Senior TT.
The rules for the Bennetts Lightweight TT are pretty simple, bikes with two-cylinders, no bigger than 650cc, and the riders must perform at least one pit stop during the three-lap race.
This means that pit stop strategy is king for the Lightweight riders, and the shuffling of positions adds a bit of drama to the usually tight racing already found on the course.
The man to beat in the Lightweight TT class is Ryan Farquhar, one of the top privateer riders at the TT (if not, the top privateer). Farquhar is responsible for tuning and building many of the top Kawasaki race bikes on the Lightweight TT grid as well, though other brands and builders have started to find competitiveness in the class.
Not to spoil the results for the Senior TT, but Friday would see records drop at the Isle of Man, and we start that trend off first in the Bennetts Lightweight TT.
For what was to be the final day of this year’s TT races, I decided to stick to habit/tradition and shoot the Lightweight and Senior races from Ballaugh bridge, around 17 miles into the Mountain Course.
After passing through Kirk Michael and the famous Rhencullen jump, the riders quickly find themselves approaching the famous humpback bridge. With a variety of lines and methods of taking this unique obstacle, there are plenty of thrills for the gathered spectators.
From the measured approach of Bruce Anstey, who takes very little air and lands the front wheel down before the rear, to the balls out air time of Conor Cummins, Josh Brookes and newcomer Phil Crowe, there is such a difference in styles between the field.
For a photographer at Ballaugh, there are a couple of main challenges. The shadows created by the trees at the side of the bridge make it quite tricky to expose the bikes and background correctly because it can leave the dark tarmac looking washed-out and far too bright when the sun is stronger. This leaves you constantly altering the settings on your camera to keep the images as evenly lit as possible.
The second issue to deal with is keeping track of approaching riders – like most places on the course you can hear the screaming engines begin to ease off and shift through the gearbox, but when multiple riders approach it always helps to spot the order they are in to shoot the leaders or other specific riders. By following the top of approaching helmets through the hedges, you have a fighting chance to capture the right rider.