Motorcycling: Top guns set for Island return in Classic TT bid

Bruce Anstey will again ride the ex-Grand Prix Yamaha YZR500 at the Classic TT
Bruce Anstey will again ride the ex-Grand Prix Yamaha YZR500 at the Classic TT

Practice for the Classic TT and Manx Grand Prix is set to blast off on Saturday on the iconic Mountain Course.

A plethora of top names are in action at the Isle of Man Festival of Motorcycling, which takes place over the next fortnight.

Since its inaugural running in 2013, the Classic TT has proved an instant hit and has once again attracted the cream of road racing’s leading names, including 23-times TT winner John McGuinness.

The Morecambe man, who produced arguably his greatest performance ever with a record-breaking win in the Senior TT on the Honda Racing Fireblade in June, returns to the Mountain Course as part of Roger Winfield’s team, joining Ulsterman Ryan Farquhar on the exotic Italian Paton machines in the Bennetts 500cc race, which takes place next Saturday over four laps.

McGuinness, who unofficially broke the lap record for the class with a speed in excess of 112mph in practice, led the race last August until he was forced out at Ginger Hall.

Farquhar briefly took over at the front, but the Dungannon star was also out of luck, retiring with an engine issue as Ian Lougher took up the running, going on to secure victory on the Flitwick Motorcycles Paton.

All three are among the big race favourites, although a host of leading contenders are set to compete on iconic MV Agusta machinery, including Fermanagh’s Lee Johnston, a hat-trick winner at the Ulster Grand Prix earlier this month.

Johnston won the 350cc race in 2014 and is joined in the Black Eagle Racing Team by Bradford’s Dean Harrison, while Gary Johnson is also MV Agusta-mounted in the race for John Chapman Racing.

Michael Dunlop, Dan Cooper and Danny Webb will ride the Molnar Manx Nortons, while Michael Rutter is another frontrunner on the Ripley Land Racing Seeley Matchless after setting the fastest ever lap by a single cylinder machine 12 months ago in excess of 109mph.

William Dunlop and Alan Oversby lead the Honda charge for Davies Motorsport, with Olie Linsdell – who won the inaugural 500 Classic TT in 2013 – competing on a Royal Enfield for Flitwick Motorcycles.

Honda is also represented by Conor Cummins and James Hillier on the CSC Racing machines.

Meanwhile, Kiwi Bruce Anstey will take all the beating as he returns on a YZR500 Yamaha Grand Prix machine for Padgetts Motorcycles in the Motorsport Merchandise Formula 1 race, which takes place on Monday, August 31.

Anstey dominated on the awesome two-stroke machine last year and believes he can up the lap record to around 127mph or 128mph, which would match the top speeds of the modern Supersport machines at the TT proper.

His opposition includes Michael Dunlop and Lee Johnston on Steve Wheatman’s Suzuki XR69 machines along with a raft of Kawasaki riders, with

James Hillier (Greenall Racing), Dean Harrison and Ivan Lintin (Steelcote Solutions Ltd), Peter Hickman and Jamie Coward (Mistral Racing) and Russ Mountford (Silicone Engineering Racing) all opting for ZXR750 power. Farquhar and Gary Johnson will compete on 1100cc Yamahas for Roger Winfield, while William Dunlop lines up on a 588cc Norton owned by the National Motorcycle Museum.

Opening practice is scheduled to take place tomorrow evening, with roads closed from 5pm to 9pm at the latest.