The Isle of Man TT is a unique event, with a unique set of riders taking on the demanding 37.73 mile public road course.
With over 200 corners to learn, experience counts around the TT. It takes years to truly understand the course and a lifetime to master. Each year, the top 20 riders are seeded, based upon their fastest laps in previous TTs, and the likelihood is that one of these giants of the TT will be triumphant come race week.
So who are the men to watch? We’ve picked out 10 of the solo riders we think will be grabbing the headlines next month…
Aussie ‘Davo’ holds the distinction of carrying the number one plate at this year’s TT races and will be out to create some surprises on the Norton V4.
The Adelaide rider made his TT debut in 2010 and won the best newcomer award that year. Since then he has steadily improved, setting a best lap of 131.595mph on the Norton last year. With a new bike reportedly better than last year’s in every single way, you could suggest that both he and the British bike are knocking on the door of a podium finish in 2017.
Veteran Bruce is one of the great enigmas of road racing. The 48-year-old New Zealander is one of the quietest and most unassuming racers ever to take on the TT course but with 11 TT wins and a best lap time of 132.298mph, Anstey is in the record books as one of the all-time greats. Arguably not the most consistent rider, on his day he is recognised as being capable of beating anyone around the Mountain course. Racing for the Padgett’s team, he has a mighty Honda RC213V-S MotoGP replica at his disposal for the big bike races. There’s no doubt he’s a contender, as well as a red hot favourite for the TT Zero electric bike race, where he competes as a replacement for the injured John McGuinness at the Mugen team.
Kawasaki’s top man has been chipping away year by year as he methodically learns the craft of becoming a top TT racer. Made his TT debut in 2008 and won the Lightweight TT in 2003. He’s been on the podium in the big bike classes numerous times since then but has never stood on the top step yet. Surely it’s more a matter of when, rather than if.
One of TT racing’s ‘big two’ Hutchy holds the distinction of being the only rider to win five solo TTs in a week, a feat he achieved with his clean sweep in 2010.
The now 37-year-old had his toughest races in the following years. A horrific leg injury at Silverstone at the end of 2010 would have ended the career of many a racer, but such is the Yorkshireman’s commitment that he was back and competing at the TT some 18 months later.
Hutchinson’s breakthrough came in 2015, when he was fit enough to win both supersport races, and the superstock – a feat he was to repeat last year.
Having missed out on both of the showcase superbike races to Michael Dunlop in 2016, Hutchy and his Tyco BMW squad have switched from Metzeler to the more favourable Dunlop tyres for this year’s festival.
The latest in the iconic Dunlop road racing dynasty is the fastest man ever around the Mountain course, being the first man to record a sub-17 minute lap time when he averaged 133.962 mph on his BMW S1000RR in last year’s Senior TT.
Tenacious and aggressive, Dunlop won both of the big bike races last year. His speed makes him the obvious favourite this time around, although his Hawk Racing team has switched from BMW to Suzuki power in 2017.
Except for mixed results at the North West 200 earlier this month, the GSX-R1000 remains unproven on the roads, but if anyone can make it work it will be Dunlop. And if it doesn’t, don’t be surprised if the 28-year-old does something radical. The enigmatic Northern Irishman has made last minute swaps of tyre manufacturers and famously dumped Yamaha after one practice session in 2015, turning to Hawk in an 11th hour deal. Last year Dunlop went into previously uncharted territory to win the Senior TT. There’s no doubt he’ll attempt the same this time around.
The biggest TT news story of the year was not only Guy’s decision to return to the island after a year out, but to do so in Honda’s official team. The quirky TV presenter has posted a best lap of 132.398 mph around the TT course and has 16 podiums to his name. A win remains elusive though, and changing that would appear to be a massive task in 2017.
Martin has struggled to find pace in the early season Irish road races, while the new Honda Fireblade looks less competitive than expected. Team-mate John McGuinness, the most successful living TT racer with 23 wins, is out through injury and even a podium looks beyond the 35-year-old TV star in the major races.
If success is to come, then it is likely to be in the one-lap TT Zero for electric bikes, where Martin is paired with Bruce Anstey at Mugen – the team which has won the race for the past three seasons.
Lincolnshire rider Hickman is one of the coming men at the TT and could well be a podium contender in his fourth year on the island.
Already a seasoned British superbike rider when he became the fastest TT newcomer in 2014. Last year he finished fourth in the superbike race and posted a best lap of 132.465mph.
If he can maintain that kind of upward trajectory, there’s no doubt that Hickman will be knocking on the door of his first podium this year and, if luck’s on his side, a win could also be on the cards.
Few riders have as much TT experience as 45-year-old Michael Rutter.
The versatile all-rounder first took to the TT course in 1994 and has secured four wins in the intervening years, with three TT Zero successes to go with a 1998 Junior TT win. With a best lap of 131.118mph, the Midlander hasn’t quite had the outright speed of the TT ‘aliens’ but he gave a good showing at the North West 200 and could be an outside bet for the podium this year.
The news of former British superbike champion Brookes returning to the TT may have been usurped by Guy Martin signing for Honda, but the Australian could be one of the big dark horses on the island this year.
Made his debut in 2014 and returned a year later, Brookes hasn’t raced at the TT for the past two seasons but is still be one of the big stars of TT17. He’s riding for Norton, whose V4 has steadily improved to the point that fellow Aussie ‘Davo’ Johnson lapped at over 131 mph last year. It’s possibly too soon in Brookes’ career for him to break into the podium on the big bikes, but he’s got a packed campaign that will see him get plenty of track time. He’ll also race in the supersport and lightweight classes, the latter of which represents a great opportunity to spray some champagne.
Talking of the Lightweight TT, the race for 650cc twins has been dominated by Lincolnshire rider Ivan Lintin. He’s won that race for the past two years and will start as favourite again on the RC Express Kawasaki.
The 32-year-old still needs to make a breakthrough in the big bike classes though, but he’s a consistent performer that should be knocking on the door of top 10s.