Isle of Man TT Preview

Brent Avis
by Brent Avis
The most challenging event in the Motorcycle racing calendar returns, aftera year long break, as a record entry of 625 riders take part in the Isle ofMan TT festival.

The Island is bracing itself for the expected invasion of 40,000 fans, whoare returining after the disappointment of last year's cancellation due tothe Foot and Mouth crisis, to soak up the thrills and action around thedemanding 37.73 mile Mountain Course as the week long eight race programunfolds...

The recent history of the TT has been the story of the Dunlop family, andRobert, the younger brother of the late Joey, aims to write yet anotherchapter in what is certain to be a poignant event for him.

Robert rides a Honda RS125R in Monday's four lap Ultra-lightweight race,aiming totake a fifth victory in that category, and a sixth in total, and memoriesof Joey will be on his mind each time he laps the circuit - the 26thmilestone has been named after Joey Dunlop, a fitting, permanentcommemoration of his unparalleled winning record on the Island.

Before that race, however, Honda, the most successful manufacturer sincetheir arrival on the scene back in 1959, will be hoping to have added totheir impressive 113 race winning pedigree as they field a strong two riderworks supported team in the opening TT Formula 1 race, on Saturdayafternoon.

John McGuinness, twice a winner on the Island, riding the 954 Fireblade thattook him to victory in last year's Macau Grand Prix, is raring to go: "I'mreally pumped up and ready to go for it - the bike is superb, and I am keento start the week as I intend to continue, with a victory.

"For me, racing the TT is the ultimate challenge. It is so different. Thecorners are varied, there is the climb up the Mountain, but while it isfinancially rewarding, no-one forces you to go there. I first went to theIsland as a schoolboy, with my dad, to watch the races, and from then on, Ihad the ambition to ride and win here."

Ulsterman Adrian Archibald, still chasing maiden TT glory joins McGuinness,riding a Fireblade and has high promise, having taken solid results on theIsland and in the traditional 'warm-up' event the NorthWest 200 races.

Ranged against the Honda duo in that six lap TTF1 race are Jim Moodie,seven times a winner, and Iain Duffus, riding Yamahas and YorkshiremanDavid Jefferies, twice in as many years a triple winner on the Island, andIan Lougher, riding Suzukis.

Sidecar racing is an important part of the TT legend, and again this year,there are two three lap races, on Saturday and Wednesday, with Manx crewDave Molyneux and Colin Hardman. They start as favourites in their HondaCBR600 powered outfit, with Molyneux, intent on adding to his seven racevictories, but, he expects under intense pressure from eight times winnerRob Fisher, passengered by Rick Long.

"I've been in racing all of my life and just enjoy riding the TT. It is away of life, I build my own chassis, and also supply several of my racerivals, including Fisher," said Molyneux, adding "the secret of doing wellon the Island is to know the course like the back of you hand - obviouslyby within living just a couple of minutes of the course, I can do that withoutany problems. Sidecar racing is all about experience."

McGuinness continues his quest to dominate the TT as he rides in Monday'stwo events, riding Honda in the Lightweight 400 race, which is combinedwith the Ultra-lightweight race, then, in the afternoon, the Lancastrianraces a Fireblade in the Production 1000TT.

Wednesday's Junior TT provides McGuinness with the opportunity to avengehis NorthWest 200 defeat by Ian Lougher. The Honda CBR600 rider reckons"Lougher is riding better now that ever and will be tough to beat, butreally, this race is my main priority. It is the one that I am determinedto win.

"Friday's 600 Production race is an extra one on the card, and will beinteresting to say the least, but it gets me in the groove for the SeniorTT, which is always regarded as the most prestigious in the Festival. Iknow that my Fireblade is well on the pace and can win," said McGuinnesswhose two victories to date were achieved in the 250 and Singles races.

Practice is held between Saturday 25 May and Friday 31 May, with the racingprogram:Saturday 1 June 14.00 TT Formula One 6 laps17.00 Sidecar "A" 3 lapsMonday 3 June 10.45 Lightweight 400/ 4 lapsUltra-lightweight 12513.15 Production 1000TT 3 lapsWednesday 5 June 10.45 Junior 600/250TT 4 laps13.15 Sidecar "B" 3 lapsFriday 7 June 10.45 Production 600TT 3 laps13.15 Senior TT 6 laps
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Brent Avis
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