Keith Amor (bottom), Steve Plater (left) and John McGuinness (center) make up the all-new TT Legends Honda racing team.
With only 60 days before the first qualifying session for the 2011 Isle of Man TT Races, fuelled by Monster Energy, all of the leading riders from 2010 are returning to compete on the Mountain Course, with more high caliber newcomers looking to add their names to the event’s illustrious history.
With entries, which were again oversubscribed, having now closed, the competitive line up looks to have at least twelve potential race winners across the five solo classes. This year’s solo entry sees a number of factory supported teams while 51 out of the potential line up of around 80 riders have already lapped in excess of 120 mph.
Fifteen time champion John McGuinness has confirmed that he will be the first rider away on Glencrutchery Road. He will take the prestigous number 1 slot in all five solo races.
McGuinness, who will be competing for the new Honda TT Legends team in the Dainese Superbike, Royal London 360 Superstock and PokerStars Senior and the Padgetts Honda outfit for the two Monster Energy Supersport Races, has achieved more 130+mph laps than any other rider around the iconic circuit. The Morecambe rider, who was forced to retire from both Superbike Races last year, will be looking to further establish his position behind only Joey Dunlop on the outright winners list.
Following John in the number 2 slot is fellow TT Legends rider Keith Amor. The Scotsman, who will be on KBMG Honda’s for the Monster Energy Supersport Races, improved his Mountain Course reputation last year when he was drafted in to the HM Plant Honda team at the last minute. With a near 130 mph lap to his name, as well as 4 podiums, it’s easy to forget that the 39-year old only made his debut in 2007.
Ex Wilson Craig Racing and Hydrex Honda runner Guy Martin will be on board the distinct black Relentless Suzuki by TAS Racing machines. The Lincolnshire rider, currently enjoying a high profile with his own BBC1 TV series, escaped serious injury after a high-speed crash at Ballagarey in last year’s Senior. Now 29, Martin will have the famous number 3 plate in all five solo races as he looks for his first TT win after 9 podium places.
Last year’s history maker Ian Hutchinson, who became the first rider to win five races in a single week, will be competing on factory Yamahas for the Shaun Muir Racing team. The Bingley rider has made the switch from Padgetts Honda to Yamaha, who celebrate their 50th anniversary of Grand Prix racing this year. ‘Hutchy’ has spent the winter recovering from a badly broken leg and will again run the number 4 plate from where he enjoyed his record breaking success last year.
With Hutchinson’s departure from Padgetts, the vastly experienced Yorkshire team have plumped for 7-time TT winner Bruce Anstey who makes the move to Honda after 7 successful years at TAS Suzuki. A stunning victory at last year’s Ulster Grand Prix shows the Kiwi can still run with the best and joining forces with Clive Padgett and his team could give him the springboard he needs for Superbike glory on the Island. Anstey starts all races at number 5.
Another rider switching to Honda machinery is Australian Cameron Donald, who has also moved away from the Relentless Suzuki by TAS Racing team. Now 33, Donald was a double winner in 2008 but last year was a transitional year following the shoulder injuries he sustained during qualifying for the 2009 TT Races, just a day after becoming the first man to lap at more than 131mph. Third in last year’s Superbike race, Cameron will be on board the rapid Wilson Craig Racing machines and starts at 6 in the Dainese Superbike, Royal London 360 Superstock and Pokerstars Senior Races.
Kawasaki have, arguably, their strongest ever line up at the TT, especially in the Superbike classes with Ryan Farquhar (7), Adrian Archibald (8) Michael Dunlop (9) and Conor Cummins (10) all riding the new ZX-10R in the Superbike class. Archibald will again be riding under the AMA Racing Team banner and is in the unique position of riding three different makes of bike – BMW, Kawasaki and Yamaha.
Farquhar came agonizingly close to a third TT win in last year’s thrilling Superstock Race and will be looking to go one better this year on the KMR Kawasaki / Manx Gas backed machines. The 35 year old has been competing at the TT since 2002 and has 2 victories and 8 further podium finishes to date.
Dunlop, who is one of only 5 men to have lapped at more than 130mph, was again a revelation in 2010 and he has a great chance of securing a Superbike win on a bike built by Paul Bird’s World Superbike team. Dunlop will continue to ride for his own team backed by loyal sponsor Street Sweep and will again be Yamaha-mounted for the two Supersport Races.
Cummins makes his return after suffering serious injuries in last year’s Senior. He retired with clutch problems while enjoying a commanding lead in last year’s Superbike Race before he endured career threatening injuries in his accident at the Verandah in the Blue Riband Senior TT. It is a major achievement for the popular Manxman to be lining up on his McAdoo Racing machines 12 months later.
Kawasaki, meanwhile, have further strength in depth with the evergreen Ian Lougher (Blackhorse Kawasaki) starting number 12 and being joined by Manxman Dan Kneen (Marks Bloom Racing) who goes from 15th. Kneen is shuffled up the order for the Supersport races (no6) whilst James Hillier (17) continues to churn out excellent results and is sure to be in the hunt for top ten finishes on his Bournemouth Kawasaki’s.
Gary Johnson (East Coast Construction) has returned to Honda machinery and will start from 11th position on the grid whilst Michael Rutter (no14) enjoyed a fine meeting twelve months ago despite a late change in machinery. He will be on board Ducatis this year with his Rapid Solicitors/Batham’s team building purpose built machines for the rigors of the Mountain Course.
Leading privateer Dan Stewart has taken sixth place for the last two years in the Senior TT and again has the number 13 plate for the 1000cc races whilst William Dunlop will be hoping to make further strides forward, especially in the large capacity classes, now that he has joined the Wilson
Simon Andrews has experience in both the British Superbike Championship and the World Superbike Championship.
Craig Racing team. Like Kneen, he will start in the top ten for the two Supersport Races given his recent strong results in the class and starts in 16th in the Superbike and Superstock classes.
Other notable numbers in the Superbike class include the returning Mark Parrett (22), Steve Mercer (23), Ian Mackman (26), and Senior Manx GP winner Simon Fulton (53). Leading newcomers include Simon Andrews (34), James Storrar (42), Dan Hegarty (60), Daniel Frear (62) and Dean Harrison (64).
The overseas challenge is probably stronger than ever with both German Rico Penzkofer (Penz13.Com BMW) and Portuguese Luis Carreira (CD Racing) starting inside the top 20 at numbers 18 and 19 respectively. American ace Mark Miller is back for the sixth consecutive year and he’s joined by fellow countryman Jeremy Toye, the San Diego rider returning for the first time since 2006. Italian regular Stefano Bonetti goes at number 30 with Spain’s Antonio Maeso (no37) and Czech republic rider Michal Dokoupil (no44) adding to the International flavor.