TT fever kicked in last week as the event organisers announced the long-awaited start numbers for the seeded riders, with the big news being that the Norton of Australian David Johnson will wear the number one plate and have the honour of heading down the famous Glencrutchery Road first in June’s Isle of Man TT races.
While the lower order riders set off in order of their practice times, race organisers seed the top 20 men based upon their past lap times and results. These riders are then allowed, in order of seeding, to pick their race number, which in turn determines the order that they will attack the time trial.
For five of the last six years, it has been John McGuinness, the most successful living TT rider, who has elected to start first however, for 2017 he has opted to adopt five as his race number, placing him strategically between fellow heavy hitters Ian Hutchinson and Michael Dunlop. That pair won all five of the major solo races in 2016 and look set to continue their titanic battle in 2017, with Hutchinson remaining on his trusty Tyco BMW, while Dunlop has a new bike to develop in the shape of the latest Suzuki GSX-R1000.
Speaking of his decision to change his start number in 2017, McGuinness said: “I’ve had a win off one, two, three and four in the past and I wanted to spice it up a bit this year. Gone are the days when you could start at one and head off into the distance. Fortunately, I’ve been done that in the past but I feel now that I need someone to chase and someone to track down. Ten years ago my strongest point was always the first sector, up to Glen Helen, but that’s probably now my weakest point. I need a kick up the backside and knowing that Michael Dunlop’s behind me, and the other lad (Hutchinson) is in front of me, means that I need to get my finger out or he’s going to come past. I looked at all the scenarios and I figured that if he (Dunlop) catches me then he’s going to be going quick and that will perhaps drag me forward. “
Honda man McGuinness’ decision to drop down the order means that the honour of setting off first goes to Johnson on the ever-improving Norton V4. The Australian lapped at an average of over 131mph on the British bike and should be even more competitive in what will be his seventh appearance, and the Norton V4’s fifth, on the Island.
Johnson said: “Starting at number one is a massive honour, but scary too! I was kind of hoping that John would take number two, as he’s so smooth and good to follow but I feel that we are at the stage now where we can be on the podium. You have to learn from those very top guys who are putting in the lap times. We’re first away and if we can get in behind them then there’s no reason why we can’t finish on the podium.”
Other big names lining up for a crack at the world’s most dangerous motorcycle race include veteran Bruce Anstey, who should be a threat on Padgett’s Honda RC213V-S, and TV celebrity Guy Martin, who returns to the TT after a year out. He joins 23-time winner McGuinness on the official Honda squad, although indications are that they will run the new-for-2017 CBR1000RR SP-2 Fireblade rather than the MotoGP derived RCV.
James Hillier leads Kawasaki’s charge and starts at number three. The Hampshire rider is a former Lightweight TT winner who has featured on the podium in the big bike races, while British Superbike stars Peter Hickman and Josh Brookes can both be podium threats as they continue toget to grips with the nuances of the demanding 37.73-mile road course.
Full list of starting numbers for seeded riders at 2017 Isle of Man TT
1 David Johnson – Norton
2 Bruce Anstey – Honda
3 James Hillier – Kawasaki
4 Ian Hutchinson – BMW
5 John McGuinness – Honda
6 Michael Dunlop – Suzuki
7 Conor Cummins – Honda
8 Guy Martin – Honda
9 Dean Harrison – Kawasaki
10 Peter Hickman – BMW
11 Michael Rutter – BMW
12 Gary Johnson – TBC
13 Lee Johnston – Honda
14 Dan Kneen – BMW
15 William Dunlop – TBC
16 Josh Brookes – Norton
17 Steve Mercer – Kawasaki
18 Martin Jessopp – BMW
19 Dan Hegarty – TBC
20 Ivan Lintin – Kawasaki
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