The 2019 Classic TT kicks off on Saturday August 17 and runs through to Monday August 26, with all the actual race action held across the Augusta 24-26 long weekend. This year’s event honours Steve Hislop for his contribution to Isle of Man racing, which includes his benchmark first ever 120mph lap of the Mountain Course in 1989.
‘Back to the Future: The Hizzy Years’ will include a pop-up museum featuring some of Scot’s historic machines, with a Steve Hislop Commemorative Lap to be held on the race Saturday.
Honda will also be celebrating a historic 60-years at the Isle of Man, with a specially restored Honda RC142 by CMSNL, while Giacomo Agostini will also be in attendance, taking part in the parade lap on Monday August 26, and as guest of honour at the RST Classic TT Heroes dinner.
The on-track action comes thick, fast and not to mention loud, with the final qualifying and the paddock carnival just a precursor to the weekend, Saturday 24th and UK Bank Holiday Monday August 26, of thrilling wheel to wheel racing by machines and riders that belie the term Classic. Current stars who have taken the challenge include John McGuinness, Michael Dunlop, Dean Harrison, Lee Johnston, James Hillier and Conor Cummins.
Saturday’s racing sees the Bennetts Classic TT Senior Race opening the programme. The 500cc class sees a multitude of 1960’s machines go head to head in a nostalgic international battle; the classic style and sound of the Italian marques – Paton, Ducati, MV Agusta, taking on the Japanese giants Honda and Yamaha. With the older and no less successful, traditional British brands such as Norton, Matchless, BSA and Royal Enfield will try to recreate past glories. The welcome, and evocative, return of the Lightweight 250 machines to the TT Mountain Course completes Saturday’s programme.
Monday’s race programme begins with the Junior Classic TT Race; a field dominated by Honda although the traditional British manufacturing industry is well represented with Velocettes, Nortons, BSA, and Matchless machines.
The meeting reaches its pinnacle with the RST Superbike Classic TT Race which features a cut-off date of 1993, these historic machines display strong links to their modern counterparts with lap times to match.
Bisecting the race action, the Classic TT off track festival maintains the buzz with the traditional Classic TT Party on Saturday night which this year features the Counterfeit Stones – delivering their own nostalgic tribute to match the trackside retrospective.
The festival action moves to the North of the Island for the VMCC’s annual Festival of Jurby – thousands of like-minded bike owners sharing their two wheeled passion with the quality of bikes on the track more than matched by the ones in the car park.
Sunday evening features the RST Classic TT Heroes Dinner where tales of derring-do are swapped by fans and legends cheek by jowl in the VIP Hospitality Unit.
A free paddock screening of four cinematic classics from the era at the Sundown Cinema – ‘Back to the Future’ from 1985, the tub thumping ‘Commitments’ (1991) – sure to get the paddock rocking – 1992’s pop culture classic Wayne’s World, and Bill Murray’s definitive appearance as a hapless reporter in Groundhog Day – wrap up the four day festival in a celluloid frame.
Senior TT winner Dean Harrison on TZ250
Laylaw Racing will again have a strong presence at this year’s Classic TT presented by Bennetts, as they continue to run a three-rider line-up.
In addition to this year’s Dunlop Senior TT Race winner Dean Harrison and ten-time TT Champion Ian Lougher, the team – headed up Southern Irishmen Eddie Laycock and Gerry Lawlor – will also field Phil Harvey in the four-lap Dunlop Lightweight Classic TT Race with the trio riding similar, immaculately-prepared TZ 250 Yamaha’s.
Harrison made his debut for the team at last year’s event which saw him have his first ever race on a two-stroke and he didn’t disappoint as a fastest lap of 113.485mph enabled him to finish in a fine fourth place despite a problematic time during qualifying.
Now a three time TT race winner, Harrison has also been victorious at the Classic TT on four occasions with two successive wins coming in the 2017 and 2018 RST Superbike Classic TT races on the Silicone Engineering Kawasaki.
His first Classic TT win was secured – by the narrow margin of 0.174 seconds – in 2013 with victory in the Formula Classic Race riding a 750cc BSA. Another win was taken in the 2015 Senior Classic TT Race, when riding a 500cc Black Eagle MV Agusta, and with the experience of last year’s Lightweight Race under his belt, he will be aiming for the victory this year to complete a unique set of race wins around the Mountain Course.
Winner of the 1990 Junior TT on a Ray Cowles Yamaha, Lougher continues with the team for a fifth consecutive year and having taken three podiums in the last three years, he’s keen to take the top step this time around and repeat his victory of five years ago.
Runner-up to Bruce Anstey in both 2016 and 2017, the veteran Welshman took third place behind Lee Johnston and Adam McLean twelve months ago and with a best lap on the Laylaw Racing machines of 117.742mph, set in 2017, he will again be among the favourites for race honours.
Harvey returns to the event hoping for better fortune this year after being forced to retire twelve months ago. Having made his debut around the 37.73-mile circuit back in 1995, the Goole rider has every chance of a podium finish having taken third place in 2016. He also took fourth place two years ago on his privately-entered Honda and with a fastest lap of 113.212mph, he cannot be discounted.
Laycock, himself a double TT winner with victory in the 1987 Junior and 1989 Supersport 400cc races, and former sponsor Lawlor have established themselves as leading exponents in the Lightweight Classic TT field and there’s every chance the striking yellow and white machines could take a clean sweep of the podium positions this August.
James Hillier on 500 Honda-4
CSC Racing will have a new look line up for their 2019 Classic TT presented by Bennetts campaign, with regular team member James Hillier being joined by Ireland’s Michael Sweeney.
Hillier will contest the Bennetts Senior Classic TT Race on a 500cc Honda-4 with Sweeney joining him at the August event on a similar machine. The Southern Irishman has taken over the machines vacated by Dan Cooper and he will also line up on a 350cc Honda in the Locate.im Junior Classic TT Race, which will also be held over four laps.
34-year old Hillier, who took two more podiums at this year’s Isle of Man TT Races, is no stranger to the Classic TT having been a regular on board the CSC Racing Honda machines since the inaugural meeting in 2013.
The Hampshire rider took sixth in the 2013 Senior Race and although he was out of luck over the following three years, he was back on the leaderboard in 2017 when he took a solid eighth place on the team’s immaculate 4 cylinder Honda machine.
Last year saw him go one better with seventh and he has a personal best lap in the class at 105.940mph which will again see him among the seeded riders this August.
Sweeney will contest the Senior and Junior Races for the first time and will look to emulate the results achieved by Cooper as the Gloucestershire rider regularly challenged for the podium positions in his three years with the team.
County Dublin based Sweeney does have previous experience of the festival having previously contested the Dunlop Lightweight Classic TT Races. Riding for Laylaw Racing, the now 38-year old took eighth in 2016 and 12th in 2017 when on board a 250cc Yamaha and, as one of the best TT Privateers in recent years, he should be well to the fore on team owner Steve Caffyn’s machines.
The team will also field a third rider with Weston-super-Mare’s Wayne Axon riding an XR69 1100cc Suzuki in the four-lap RST Superbike Race.
Ripley Land Racing
Michael Rutter & Adam McLean
Ripley Land Racing have opted for a healthy blend of youth and experience, having signed TT stars Michael Rutter and Adam McLean for this year’s annual event. Having ridden for the team since 2014, Rutter will again campaign a 350cc Drixton Honda in the Junior Classic TT where he will be joined by young gun McLean who will ride a 350cc AJS 7R. The Northern Ireland youngster will also contest the Bennetts Senior Classic TT on the team’s 500cc Seeley G50 previously ridden by Rutter.
In addition to the success enjoyed with Rutter, the Guildford-based team have also taken two race wins at the meeting with Chris Palmer, and Cameron Donald another rider to have enjoyed some strong results on board their machines. With Rutter and McLean signed for 2019, their intentions are clear for this year’s Classic TT, and they have a great chance of adding to their already impressive track record.
Team York Suzuki
Gary Johnson & Sam West
Team York Suzuki are also set to challenge for honours at this year’s Classic TT, having secured the talented services of Gary Johnson and Sam West for the August event. Both Johnson and West will contest the four-lap RST Superbike Race on identically-prepared 1100cc Suzuki machines for Kevin Pearson’s York-based team.
It will be Johnson’s fourth successive year with the team and although he’s found luck in scarce supply in recent years, his undoubted pace means he’s more than capable of pushing for a podium position, at the very least. The double TT winner has recorded a best lap of 123.864mph on the striking blue and white machines and was running in third place in last year’s race before being forced to retire at the beginning of the third lap. He did, however, take fifth place in 2016. West joins the team for the first time replacing Australian David Johnson, who competed with the team at the Classic TT between 2015 and 2018.
The 2019 line-up should again see Pearson’s team well to the fore with both riders having a great chance to impress.
Paul Jordan & Derek McGee
Mistral Racing will field two of the Mountain Course’s rising stars for this year’s Classic TT, having signed Paul Jordan and Derek McGee for the August meeting. Both Jordan and McGee will ride identically-prepared ZXR 750 Kawasaki’s on Monday’s four-lap RST Superbike Race.
Jordan joined the team in 2018, as a late replacement for McGee after he was injured at the Ulster Grand Prix, with the Magherafelt rider going on to put in a superb performance. With a fastest lap of 122.445mph on the green, white and red Kawasaki, the 27-year old had worked his way up to fourth place behind Dean Harrison, Horst Saiger and Conor Cummins before cruelly being forced to retire on the final lap.
McGee, meanwhile, had been due to make his Classic TT debut last year before the incident at the Ulster GP when he was the victim of another rider’s crash. Once back to full fitness, the ‘Mullingar Missile’ will finally get to make his first Classic TT appearance later this year where, together with Jordan, he forms a formidable looking team with the duo having a great chance of recording a podium finish.
Alasdair Cowan Racing
David Johnson & Craig Neve
Alasdair Cowan Racing became one of the first teams to announce their line up for this year’s Classic TT presented by Bennetts, with David Johnson and Craig Neve contesting the RST Superbike Classic TT Race. The duo will line up on identically-prepared ZXR750 Kawasaki’s for the four-lap race which is scheduled to take place on the Bank Holiday Monday of August 26th.
ACR made their debut at last year’s Classic TT with Neve and former Senior Manx Grand Prix winner Andrew Dudgeon on board. Neve was forced to retire from a top ten position on the second lap, whilst Dudgeon went on to take a brilliant fourth place.
Dudgeon’s best lap averaged a speed of 123.024mph, which more than proved the capability and competitiveness of the ACR machines. With continued support from Robert Burns Ltd, team principal Alasdair Cowan is confident of an even better showing in 2019.
Neve will be making his third appearance at the Classic TT presented by Bennetts, while Australian ace Johnson, who recently signed for the Honda Racing squad, will be back for a fourth attempt. The Adelaide rider has previously campaigned Suzuki XR69 machinery at the event, taking an excellent third place in 2015 and fourth in 2017 with Team York Suzuki.
His move to ACR sees him join a long list of Kawasaki riders in the headline race, with the ZXR750 becoming the dominant bike in the class over the last two years, taking 6 of the top 7 spots in last year’s race.
Jamie Coward joins McLean and Vines on TZ250 Yamahas
Binch Racing will be amongst the favourites for success at this year’s Classic TT, presented by Bennetts, with a three rider line up of Jamie Coward, Adam McLean and Gary Vines.
The trio will all contest the four-lap Dunlop Lightweight Classic TT race on immaculately prepared TZ250 Yamaha’s for the team run by former Manx Grand Prix rider David Binch.
Jamie Coward, this year’s TT Privateer’s Champion, is a new addition to the team in 2019 and will be having his first taste of two-stroke racing at the Classic TT. However, he’s no stranger to the event itself and, having already competed in the three other classes, has chalked up five podiums in the Senior and Junior Classic TT races.
The Hebden Bridge rider has proven to be one of the most versatile riders currently competing on the roads and is in arguably the best form of his career. He’s already been in action on the Binch Racing machine this year with the 28-year old running at the front at the Pre-TT Classic meeting at Billown.
Adam McLean had his first two-stroke outing on the Mountain Course at last year’s event and he gave the team an excellent result when, after leading in the early stages, he finished in the runners-up spot to Lee Johnston.
The 23-year old Ulsterman pushed his more experienced rival all the way and although he was ultimately overhauled for the win, a superb best lap of 116.870mph enabled him to finish in second place and ahead of riders including Ian Lougher and Dean Harrison.
Gary Vines completes the line-up with the Colchester rider having been one of the leading two-stroke exponents of recent years. Winner of the 2015 Newcomers Manx Grand Prix, the 28-year old finished in sixth place in the 2016 Lightweight Classic TT race and was running in fifth place last year for the team before being forced to retire.
With a fastest lap on the 250cc Yamaha in excess of 112mph, his credentials around the 37.73-mile circuit speak for themselves and together with McLean and Coward, Binch Racing have assembled a formidable looking line up that is sure to be challenging for the race win.
Legendary Italian racer Giacomo Agostini, with 15 world championship titles to his name, will ride the iconic Robert Iannucci owned 350cc MV Agusta ‘Quattro Cilindri’ that was first introduced in the 1972 World Championship season and replaced the hugely successful MV Agusta triples that won the 350cc World Championship every year from 1968 to 1973.
He will ride in a parade lap at the Classic TT on the 350cc MV Agusta ‘Quattro Cilindri’, which owner Rob Iannucci acquired from the MV Agusta Cascina Costa Racing shop in 1986 and the Team Obsolete technicians have refurbished the bike while maintaining it in its original ‘as raced’ condition.
Giacomo will lead the field away in the Classic TT Lap of Honour on Monday 26th August. He will also be a guest of honour at the RST Classic TT Heroes dinner on Sunday 25th August as well as appearing at the Vintage Motor Cycle Club’s Festival of Jurby earlier in the day.
Rob Iannucci – Team Obsolete
“We have been a passionate supporter of the Classic TT concept since its initial inception and the chance to bring back the combination of one of the greatest names in TT history and one of the most iconic marques was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up. We are delighted to be able to give people on the Isle of Man the chance to witness this remarkable bike being ridden on the Mountain Course and to be able to add another chapter to this prestigious event’s growing reputation. We thank our sponsors Avon Tyres and Red Line Synthetic Oil”
Honda celebrate 60 years on the Mountain Course
Mike Buttinger, founder and owner of CMSNL, has recreated a Honda RC142 – the first Honda motorcycle to compete in the TT Races back in 1959, with the marque celebrating their 60th year at the IoM TT in 2019.
Working with Marnix Deibert and Sebas Van De Broek, Buttinger has rebuilt a complete RC142 from only an engine, fuel tank, swingarm, wheel hubs, and an assortment of smaller components. Leaving Deibert and Van De Broek with the sizeable task of recreating the frame, suspension, aluminium fairing, and a significant number of smaller components entirely by hand.
The machines were originally developed and supplied by Honda in 1959, and entered in the 125cc Lightweight TT Race, the nine-man team featured four Japanese riders and one American. A number of the Japanese riders had never ridden on tarmac before, only dirt, while their helmets failed to meet the standards set by the ACU.
With its aluminium fairing and out-of-date bottom-link front suspension, the RC142 was derided by many who saw it that year. Concern also came from within the team, as team leader Kiyoshi Kawashima San had concerns about the frame rigidity and brake performance.While American Bill Hunt fell from the race, the other four machines and riders performed impeccably, with only a broken rear brake rod pin causing an issue.
Tarquinio Provini won the race on the MV Agusta, but it was a landmark day for Honda. Naomi Taniguchi won a Silver Replica with a sixth place finish, with Giichi Suzuki seventh, Teisuke Tanaka eighth and Junzo Suzuki in tenth, meaning the team won the Constructor’s Prize.
Honda returned in 1960 with an improved machine and hired riders such as Jim Redman and Tom Phillis, who then won the 125cc World Championship just one year later.
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