New season, new rides for TT
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At least three of the high-profile contenders are confirmed as climbing aboard new model motorcycles for the Isle of Man TT in June.
Honda’s long-awaited CBR1000RR Fireblade SP2 and a full update of the Suzuki GSX-R1000 are new 2017 machines set to debut on the Mountain Course in just over two months.
Honda Racing has announced a two-bike effort in the Superbike and Senior races with 23-time TT winner John McGuinness teamed with Guy Martin, who returns to the TT after missing the 2016 races.
For Martin, who has 15 podium finishes at the TT, the Honda Racing opportunity will provide a strong chance of achieving an elusive TT victory.
After winning the 2016 Superbike and Senior TT races on Hawk Racing BMW machinery, Northern Ireland’s Michael Dunlop has followed through on the hints shown while racing in New Zealand in December by confirming his switch to Suzuki.
Dunlop, a 13-time TT winner and the outright lap record holder is set to ride for the Bennetts Suzuki squad on the new GSX-R.
And Dunlop will give himself an additional chance to increase his tally of TT wins in 2017 by signing to ride a McAdoo Racing Kawasaki Z650 Ninja in the Lightweight TT for 650cc Super Twin machines.
Sticking with the known quantity is Englishman Ian Hutchinson, who will again turn out in the colours of Tyco BMW in the ‘‘big bike’’ races.
John McGuinness (left) and new Honda team-mate Guy Martin. Photo / Stephen Davison
Hutchinson was second to Dunlop in the Superbike and Senior races last year and won the 1000cc SuperStock race on a BMW S1000RR.
A number of other leading riders have confirmed their road racing plans for 2017.
William Dunlop has signed a deal with Halsall Racing but there is no announcement yet on which brand of motorcycle the team will campaign.
Norton has been a re-emerging force at the TT in recent years and will have a new SG6 Superbike — based on the recently announced V4 SS road machine — at the 2017 event with Australian riders Josh Brookes and David Johnson aboard. Johnson was a promising seventh in the Superbike race on the Norton SG5 last year.
Peter Hickman — the fourth-place finisher in the 2016 Superbike TT — has announced a switch from Kawasaki to the Smith’s BMW squad; whereas a rider sticking with the proven Honda package is Lee Johnston, riding for Jackson Racing Honda and pinning his hopes on a 2016 model Fireblade.
Michael Dunlop is switching to Suzuki’s new GSX-R1000. Photo / Supplied
With a new Honda available, Kiwi Bruce Anstey may even have three different bikes to chose from when he lines up for the Padgett’s Valvoline team.
The team created headlines in 2016 by building a road race version of Honda’s RC 213V-S MotoGP replica but Anstey carried an injury through the race week and his best ‘‘big bike’’ result was fifth in the Senior TT.
Eleven-time TT winner Anstey could make a second attempt on the MotoGP machine or potentially chose from either new or old model Fireblades.
The evening practice and qualifying sessions run daily from May 27 until June 2 and TT race week opens on Saturday, June 3, with the Superbike TT and Sidecar Race 1.
On Monday, June 5, it will be SuperSport Race 1 and the 1000cc Superstock TT and on Wednesday, June 7, it’s the second Supersport race, the Lightweight TT for 650cc twin-cylinder machines and the TT-Zero electric bike race.
The second Sidecar race and the Senior TT are scheduled for the final race day on Friday, June 9.