The traditional curtain raiser not only for the 2017 Isle of Man TT Races fuelled by Monster Energy but also the road racing season will take place this year at the Villa Marina on the Isle of Man on the evening of Thursday 23rd March.
For many fans it will be the first opportunity to hear the thoughts of the leading contenders for honours now that the closed season behind the scenes negotiations have – almost – been completed.
This year’s event, which will feature a new theatre style seating format, will be hosted by TT TV commentator James Whitham with support from his TV co-presenter and two time TT Race winner Steve Plater. Fans will also have a reminder of the riders 2016 exploits with stunning high definition, big screen footage of the most memorable moments played during the course of the evening.
Among the hot topics at this year’s event will undoubtedly be the renewed rivalry between Tyco BMW’s Ian Hutchinson and the explosive Michael Dunlop which saw the leading duo share five race wins at TT2016 following a series of thrilling head to heads.
The evening will represent the first opportunity for fans to hear how Michael Dunlop is getting to grips with the Hawk Racing Bennetts Suzuki Superbike as he bids to win on a fifth different manufacturer’s machine around the Mountain Course while ‘Hutchy’ will be using the evening to put down a marker about ‘big bike’ wins for the Northern Ireland based Tyco outfit.
Honda Racing’s John McGuinness re-established his ‘King of the Mountain’ credentials in 2015 with his stunning PokerStars Senior TT Race win and although McGuinness didn’t add to his 23 titles in 2016, the ‘Morecambe Missile’ will be looking for a change of fortune on the new Honda Fireblade. He’ll also no doubt offer some interesting insights into his new teammate Guy Martin.
John’s former teammate at Honda Racing Conor Cummins, a rider with six TT podiums to his name, will be unveiling his plans for tackling the Mountain Course in 2017 at the chat show while TT race winners will be appearing thick and fast on the stage. Double Supersport TT Race winner Gary Johnson is booked in for the sofa as is 2016 race winner Ivan Lintin, who has stood on the top step of the Bennetts Lightweight TT podium for the last two years, will be returning with the RC Express Racing outfit for a fourth season.
Another rider who has enjoyed success in the Lightweight class is Dean Harrison, who won the corresponding race in 2014. Bradford based Harrison’s is another rider who will enjoy the stability of appearing with the same outfit as he campaigns for the Silicone Engineering team for the second year.
James Hillier will outline what makes his partnership with JG Speedfit Kawasaki tick. James, who is now with the team for an eighth successive season, will be looking for his first Superbike win after several close challenges. Like Harrison, Hillier stood on the podium three times in 2016 and will be looking to move to a higher step this year.
Harrison’s Sarolea TT Zero teammate Lee Johnston has switched to Jackson Racing for all classes and the Northern Ireland rider will be sharing his own unique brand of humour with fans as he plots his first TT Race win on the Ten Kate backed Honda.
Peter Hickman, the event’s fastest ever newcomer, is another to switch team and manufacturer, joining Smiths Racing BMW outfit for his 2017 campaign. Smiths Racing, who enjoyed a race win in the 2014 Supersport TT with Gary Johnson, will now be looking for Superbike honours with the popular Louth based rider.
Another rider to favour the German manufacturer is Manxman Dan Kneen, who teams up with Rico Penzkofer’s Penz13.com outfit in 2017. The local favourite will undoubtedly enjoy a shorter trip to the Villa Marina for the chat show than most of his fellow competitors.
Norton duo David Johnson and the returning Josh Brookes will be jetting in from Australia to talk about the challenge of improving on the team’s breakthrough performances from last year, which saw them post the British manufacturers first ever 130mph lap of the TT Mountain Course.
Representing the old guard, 11 time TT race winner Bruce Anstey is again expected to ride for Batley based Padgetts motorcycles but team boss Clive Padgett has yet to announce his machine plans following the Kiwi’s hugely innovative appearance on the RCV last year. Like Anstey, fellow veteran competitor Michael Rutter, is another rider who can reminisce about racing at the TT in the 1990’s but who is still challenging at the front of the field.
In the Sure sidecar class seventeen time TT Race winner Dave Molyneux will be looking to put last year’s disappointment behind him when the Manxman failed to start one race and failed to finish the other. Molyneux again teams up with fellow Manxman Dan Sayle, himself the holder of eight race wins around the Mountain Course, and will be sharing how his 2017 plans are shaping up.
While 2016 race winners Ben Birchall/Tom Birchall maintain their fraternal partnership, its all change with last year’s other Sure sidecar race winners John Holden who has teamed up with Manxman Lee Cain as he bids to add to his two Sidecar titles while Tim Reeves, who finished third in the Sure Sidecar 2 Race in 2016, will be discussing his strategy for adding to his solitary 2013 race win and his renewed partnership with Mark Wilkes.
There’s always significant interest in the newcomers and Joe Thompson, Adam McLean and Paul Jordan will be sharing their winter course learning preparations under the watchful eye of Rider Liaison Officers John Barton and Milky Quayle with the fans.
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. If you can’t be on the Island, you will be able to watch the proceedings on a live stream hosted on iomtt.com.