TT 2017: Top names gearing up for big launch night in Douglas

Michael Dunlop won the Superbike and Senior races at the Isle of Man TT in 2016.

Michael Dunlop won the Superbike and Senior races at the Isle of Man TT in 2016.

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The countdown to the 2017 Isle of Man TT races will begin in earnest next week when many of the sport’s biggest names will converge in Douglas for the official launch of the event.

Outright lap record holder and 13-time winner Michael Dunlop will take centre stage as the new Bennetts Suzuki rider gives his thoughts on pre-season testing and looks ahead to the world famous festival in June, where he won both blue riband Superbike and Senior races in 2016.

Dunlop, who is one win away from equalling Mike Hailwood’s haul of 14 victories around the Mountain Course, is bidding to win a TT race for a fifth different manufacturer this season on the all-new GSX-R1000 Suzuki.

The 27-year-old opted to remain within Stuart and Steve Hicken’s Hawk Racing squad and will receive factory backing from Suzuki and specialist support from legendary tuning experts Yoshimura.

Dunlop will be joined at the launch party in the iconic Villa Marina next Thursday evening by fierce rival Ian Hutchinson, who bagged a treble last year in the Supersport and Superstock classes.

Hutchinson has made no secret of his desire to return to the top step in the Superbike class on the Tyco BMW as he prepares to lock horns once more with the Ballymoney rider.

Hutchy will ride a new Yamaha R6 for the Team Traction Control team as he aims to enhance his excellent record in the Supersport class, with the 37-year-old winning the last four races for Keith Flint’s team.

A star-studded guest list includes Morecambe Missile John McGuinness, who has high expectations for the year ahead on the brand new Honda Fireblade SP2. McGuinness, who will have Guy Martin as his team-mate this year, failed to add to his tally of 23 victories in 2016 but will be hopeful of setting the record straight in less than three months’ time.

Manxman Conor Cummins is set to reveal his plans on the night after losing his place in the Honda Racing team to Martin, while the Padgetts Racing team will shed some light on which machine Kiwi Bruce Anstey will ride after the veteran racer impressed on the MotoGP-based Honda RCV last year.

Double TT winner Gary Johnson, Ivan Lintin, Dean Harrison, Peter Hickman, Dan Kneen and James Hillier will also be in attendance, while Norton will be represented by new signing Josh Brookes and David Johnson.

Northern Ireland’s Lee Johnston will also make the trip to talk about his new Jackson Racing Honda machines, and fellow countrymen Paul Jordan and Adam McLean will take to the stage to talk about their upcoming TT debuts this year.

Sidecar frontrunners Dave Molyneux and Dan Sayle, Ben and Tom Birchall, John Holden and Lee Cain and Tim Reeves and Mark Wilkes will represent the 'chairs' class on the night.

Doors open at 7.30pm for an 8pm start with tickets priced at £5 available from the Villa Marina box office at www.villagaiety.com.

The event, hosted by Jamie Whitham and Steve Plater, will also be streamed live on the official TT website atwww.iomtt.com.