Nostalgic race fans from around the world have converged on the Isle of Man for the four Classic TT presented by Bennetts Race programme, which gets underway today (Saturday 24 August) and concludes on Monday 26 August.
The first Race - the Bennetts Senior Classic TT Race - is scheduled to get underway at 13.15 today. John McGuinness who will be going head to head with other leading TT stars as well as a number of classic racing specialists onboard a combination of British single cylinder machines and exotic two, three and four cylinder machines from Italy and Japan - will start favourite in the 500cc category.
McGuinness - who won the race in both 2016 and 2018 on Roger Winfield’s Paton - currently holds the class lap record at an average speed of 113.342mph and is the fastest qualifier but he will have a target on his back.
2014 Race winner Ian Lougher on one of John Chapman’s exotic MV Agusta’s, Michael Rutter on the Ripley Land Matchless which he has already lapped in excess of 109mph and 2019 TT Privateer’s Champion, Jamie Coward, who has taken second place for the last two years, on the Ted Woof/Craven Manx Norton, could all conceivably challenge for the top step.
One of the highlights of the Classic TT Race meeting has been the return of Bruce Anstey for Saturday afternoon’s Dunlop Lightweight Classic TT Race, which is due to start at 16.10. Anstey - who set the first 250cc 120mph lap on his way to winning the race in 2017 - hadn’t competed on the TT Mountain Course for two years as he has battled serious illness but he has put that absence behind him to be the fastest qualifier on the Milenco by Padgetts Motorcycles Honda RS250.
Opposition will come from Lee Johnston, winner in 2018, who returns with the Binch Racing Yamaha team and the impressive Laylaw Racing team, with former TT winner Eddie Laycock and Gerry Lawler providing immaculately-prepared Yamaha TZ250s for Ian Lougher although Lougher’s teammate Dean Harrison, the second fastest qualifier, may miss the race with a rib injury sustained in an incident at Laurel Bank in last night’s qualifying session.
Today’s schedule also includes ‘The Hizzy Years’ – a demonstration lap tribute to Steve Hislop featuring his friends, teammates and rivals including multiple World Superbike Champion Carl Fogarty, McGuinness, Phillip McCallen, Ian Simpson, Stuart Easton and Steve Plater riding bikes that defined the Scottish riders hugely successful career in the British Championship and the TT Races.
Monday’s race programme opens up with the Locate.im Junior Classic TT Race (10.15) which is set to be one of the most closely contested classes at this year’s race meeting. Honda, with almost 75% of the field on the legendary K4, lead the manufacturer interest.
Last year’s winner Dominic Herbertson, who is one of only five riders to lap at more than 104mph in the class, continues with the Davies Motorsport team who will be confident of retaining the top spot as they also have class lap record holder Lee Johnston in their ranks again. Another Honda rider - Michael Rutter - who won the race in both 2015 and 2017, returns on the Ripley Land Racing Honda while Jamie Coward, riding the Ted Woof Honda, is currently the fastest qualifier.
The Classic TT Race programme finishes with the Blue Riband RST Superbike Classic TT Race - pre 1992 Superbikes Classics going head to head on Monday afternoon. Michael Dunlop on the Team Classic Suzuki GSXR 1100 XR69 machine which he rode to victory in 2013, 2015 and 2016 will undoubtedly be the race favourite if Dean Harrison, race winner in 2017 and 2018, doesn’t make the start line but a number of other contenders including Greenall Racing Kawasaki teammates Derek Shiels and Horst Saiger, Philip Crowe (Team Classic Suzuki) and local riders Ryan Kneen (Team Henheim Racing Kawasaki) and Conor Cummins (Milenco by Padgetts Motorcycles) have posted fast qualifying times.
Monday’s programme also features the Classic Racer Magazine Classic TT Lap of Honour which this year will be led away by 10-time TT Race winner – and 15 time world champion – Giacomo Agostini on the MV Agusta that he won his last world championship race on in 1976.