There are a number of big changes to the starting order for the RST Superbike and PokerStars Senior TT Races at the 2017 Isle of Man TT Races fuelled by Monster Energy.
Nineteen of the first 20 seeded riders have lapped at over 128mph and between them have a remarkable total of 71 TT victories and 195 podiums, emphasizing the fact that the strength of depth and level of competition at the TT is at an all-time high.
David Johnson and Norton Racing have the honour of starting at number one, just reward for their efforts last year but, arguably, the biggest news is the rider who previously went off first but now goes at number five – John McGuinness.
The 23-time TT winner and Honda Racing team leader has illustrious company ahead and behind him on the grid with 14-time winner Ian Hutchinson, on the Tyco BMW, lining up at number four and Michael Dunlop at number six. Those three riders alone share an incredible 50 TT victories.
With the exception of 2013, when he started at number three as part of a Joey Dunlop tribute, McGuinness has had the number one plate every year since 2011. He last rode with number 5 in a Superbike race in 2002 but may feel his best chance of another victory is to have his main rivals alongside him.
Riding the new Bennetts Suzuki, Dunlop will be aiming to repeat his double race wins of 2016 and improve his outright lap record. With his two main rivals starting directly in front of him, he’ll be able to gauge his progress as the races unfolds.
Another multiple winner among the seeds, New Zealander Bruce Anstey, will again carry the number two plate for the Padgetts Motorcycles team. It will be the Kiwi’s 7th year with the team who are set to campaign their RCV213V Honda machine for a second year.
JG Speedfit Kawasaki’s James Hillier, who took three podiums last year, will again go at number three. His highest place finish in the Superbike and Senior TT Races last year was a lowly ninth, so he’ll be keen to put that right in 2017 and get back into the top three.
There’s change at number seven with Conor Cummins moving up the order from the number 10 spot that he’s had for the past eight years. The Manxman is set to announce which team he will be riding for at the Official TT Press Launch on March 23.
Returning after a year’s absence, Guy Martin follows Conor away at number eight. The Lincolnshire rider, who has 16 podiums to his name, retains the number that he ran with on his last TT appearance in 2015. Dean Harrison gets a starting spot inside the Superbike top ten for the first time on his Silicone Engineering Kawasaki and follows Martin at number nine on the grid.
Peter Hickman, the fastest newcomer of all time, completes the top 10. After mixed fortunes in 2016, he’s back on board BMW machinery for the Smiths Racing team who are welcome returnees having missed last year’s event.
Another BMW rider, the evergreen Michael Rutter, again riding for Bathams/SMT Racing will be 11th, away with Gary Johnson starting directly behind him who is still to confirm his team and machinery plans for 2017.
Lee Johnston, another rider to have switched machine in the close season will follow Johnson down Glencrutchery Road. Johnston again starts at number 13, this time on the Jackson Racing Honda.
Dan Kneen on board the Penz13.com BMW will start at number 14. The Braddan rider will be looking to make up for lost time having missed last year’s races due to injury. William Dunlop, riding for Halsall Racing, will follow the Manx rider, although the former British Superbike Championship team are still to confirm which manufacturer they will use.
Further excitement comes at number 16 with 2015 British Superbike Champion Josh Brookes making his return to the TT. Having last competed in 2014, Brookes, who is on the second factory Norton, will leave the line 10 seconds ahead of Steve Mercer on the first of two Devitt RC Express Kawasaki machines.
The top 20 is completed by Martin Jessopp (Riders Motorcycles BMW) at 18 in his 4th year at the TT, last year’s TT Privateer’s Champion, Top Gun Racing’s Dan Hegarty, a seeded rider for the first time at number 19 and taking the number 20 plate and the last of the seeded positions double Lightweight TT winner Ivan Lintin on the second Devitt RC Express Kawasaki.
An IOMTT Press Release