Introduced in 2013 and positioned alongside the Manx GP and Festival of Jurby, The Classic TT forms the cornerstone of the two week long Isle of Man Festival of Motorcycling. Held over the August bank holiday weekend, the two day, four race Classic TT has gained a reputation as the world's premier classic motorcycle race. That's hardly surprising, given it attracts most of the world's leading road racers on the most exciting and unique motorsport circuit on the planet. And there's one other key factor to add to the mix: an array of exotic classic machinery that has fans drooling uncontrollably whenever they 'clock' the spectacular line-up of metal in the paddock or on the roads.
We're over on the Rock again for this year's event - retailing our top deck range of casual gear for biking and race fans in the trading area behind the grandstand. And, of course, we'll also be supporting our triumvirate of sponsored road racers: our "Red Riders" - namely, John McGuinness, Conor Cummins and Lee Johnston.
For John McGuinness, the Classic's always a mega event and something that he looks forward to enormously. However, this year represents a particularly special occasion for the Morecambe man: it marks his comeback following the 2017 injury at the NW200 and will be the first time in the past two years that he'll have ridden competitively on the Mountain Course. John, who currently holds the Senior Classic TT lap record of 113.342 mph, (Paton 500), will lead a field of around 80 riders off on board the Team Winfield Paton 500 - with its booming megaphone pipes - in the opening Bennetts Senior Classic TT on Saturday 25th August. He'll be desperately hoping for a strong result - as will his legions of fans.
Mountain Man: John McGuinness - Paton 500
Manxman Conor Cummins, fresh from a hugely impressive Isle of Man TT and Ulster GP, was set to ride the Padgetts OW01 750 Yamaha but it was subsequently announced that he would race their Yamaha YZR500 V4 two stroke GP machine. He made the announcement on twitter himself and appeared to be pretty excited by the prospect: "I’m a very lucky bugger! Pleased to say I’m riding the Bruce Anstey @PadgettsRacing1 500 Yamaha GP bike for @iom_tt FOM . Rude!!"
This is the machine that Bruce Anstey set a Superbike Classic lap record on of 127.496 mph last year whilst giving the world a masterclass in the art of two stroke racing. It was the fastest two stroke lap ever witnessed round the Mountain Course. Conor will also be riding a 350 Honda in the Junior Classic TT. The "Flying Barista" is in the form of his life just now and is clearly very comfortable with the whole Padgetts "family" set-up. Cummins had an outstanding TT and was the only man to podium in both "big bike" races: 2nd in Superbike 1 and 3rd in the Senior. With a 4th in Supersport 1 and 5th in Supersport 2 it was an outstanding performance by the Ramsey man. At the Ulster GP, Conor produced the fastest ever qualifying lap of 134.138 mph to take Superbike pole position and finished the meeting with a hat-trick of podium finishes: 1st in Supersport 1 and 3rd in Superstock and Supersport 2. The prospect of seeing Conor on the Padgetts YZR 500 is a mouth watering proposition. Could the big man be on for a Classic Superbike win?
'General' Lee Johnston didn't have the best of TTs this year and experienced a few intermittent problems with machinery. However, he did have a very good Ulster GP and although the weather resulted in a shortened race programme, Lee bagged two podium finishes: 2nd in Superbike on the Honda Racing Fireblade and a 2nd in Supersport on the Padgett's CBR600RR. Lee will pilot Padgett's Honda RS250 in the Dunlop Lightweight TT - not the exact same one, but very similar to the machine that - yip, Bruce Anstey set an outright class record on last year of 120.475 mph - the fastest ever 250cc lap round the mountain. (Bruce is going to be missed 'big time' at this year's Classic and we send him our very best thoughts and wishes). Given Lee's weight, he's going to definitely be one to watch in the Lightweight TT. He'll also be riding the Davies Motorsport Honda 350 in the Locate.im Junior Classic TT race - a race that he won in 2014 and set a lap record of 105.239 mph on Black Eagle's 350 MV Augusta.
Other special machinery to look out for includes Dean Harrison's Yamaha TZ250; Horst Saiger on the Egli Vincent; Danny Wed on Team Classic Suzuki's original RG500; Ian Lougher riding John Chapman Racing MV Augusta and Josh Brookes on the wicked sounding Norton Rotary 588 cc.
Although the machinery is from yesteryear, the top class men don't hold back. Racing is hard and fast. Check out this tremendous on board lap of Josh Brookes in practice for the 2017 Classic Superbike race on the Wiz Norton 588cc rotary. Beautifully shot, it gives a full view of the tacho and even Josh's right hand on the front brake. Pump up the volume for maximum visceral effect and just listen to that Norton sing! It's exceptional footage and shows just how hard the top class riders push classic machines. (Brookesy's commitment at the foot of Barregarrow - 6 mins 33 secs!)
Unique History and Heritage
With 110 years of history and such a rich vein of heritage to fall back on, the Classic TT has already generated a whole raft of memorable highlights for fans of classic racing to soak up. Over the past five years, homage has been paid to historic races, legendary riders and iconic race bikes. In 2017, Steve Plater rode a 250 Honda six parade lap and Michael Dunlop rode a Gilera rep in celebration of the the 60th anniversary of "Glasgow Great" Bob McIntyre's first 100 mph lap in 1957. In 2013 McGuinness and Agostini rode a parade "re-enactment" of the famous 1967 Hailwood / Agostini Senior TT battle and McGuinness has also ridden in a Joey Dunlop tribute in 2014.
'78 Mike Hailwood TT Comeback
For 2018, the organisers of the Classic TT have played a trump card and, once again, the most successful living TT racer in our midst plays a central role. On Saturday 25th August, John McGuinness will ride a lap on the original Ducati 900 that the great Mike Hailwood made his comeback on, following an absence of eleven years, to win the 1978 Formula 1 TT. This special tribute will celebrate the 40th anniversary of one of the most memorable events in TT history which, at the time, turned grown men into onion and garlic cutters. (Strangely, they seemed to experience a mysterious "mist" in their eyes - but t'was only a mist thankfully!) Come Saturday early afternoon, this unusual phenomenon could well be witnessed again).
Red Torpedo wishes all riders in the Classic TT / Manx GP, plus all marshals, organisers and fans a safe event. We also have everything crossed that the weather picks up and allows the full programme to run.
2018 Classic TT races:
Saturday 25th August:
11.00: Bennetts Senior Classic TT
12.55: 1978 Hailwood Comeback Celebration: John McGuinness lap
15.30: Dunlop Lightweight Classic TT
Monday 27th August:
10.15: Junior Classic TT
14.00 RST Superbike Classic TT
Peter Faragher (www.wpfotos.co.uk)