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TT 2018: Superbikes Snaefell and missing McGuinness

May 282018

The wait is over and the show has started. The 2018 Isle of Man TT races fuelled by Monster Energy are go. Over the next two weeks, the world’s best motorcycle road racers will tuck in, go full throttle, and pit themselves against the infamous Snaefell Mountain Course in a bid to stake their claim in motorsports history.

Haven’t heard of it? You should have. Think of a 37.73-mile (60.72 km) ‘circuit’ comprised entirely of temporarily closed public roads. No gravel traps, no catch fencing, no second chances. In their place, stone walls, street lights, and tree lined avenues that are more accustomed to seeing the weekly 30mph school run, instead of a 200mph Superbike. What’s more, all of this is set on a blustery island in the middle of the Irish Sea. It’s full factory versus elite privateer in the world’s ultimate road race.

The event is characterized by being split into two distinct parts – practice and race week – with the latter going live with the six-lap RST Superbike race at midday on June 2nd. In true TT style, a big opening race is matched by a bigger final race – the blue-riband Pokerstars Senior TT – along with a load of action in between. If that wasn’t enough the spoils are contested over five separate classes; ranging from complete race-specification Superbikes, to Supersport and Superstock, Lightweight Supertwins, and the electric class; more commonly known as TT Zero.

 

TT 2018 marks something of a turbulent year on the Isle of Man however; with the most successful living rider, John McGuinness, unfortunately sidelined again due to injury. The 23-time TT winner has already been forced to sit out from competition on the Isle of Man for a year; following a high speed crash at the 2017 North West 200. The accident, which was caused by the throttle opening unexpectedly, as a result of a fault with the ECU on his Honda Fireblade, threw McGuinness from his machine at over 120mph.

The injury list was extensive. A compound fracture to his lower right leg, four broken vertebrae and three broken back ribs. Since the crash McGuinness has had to wear an external fixator cage on his right leg to support and aid the re-growth of the broken bones. With his recovery on track, a return to racing for TT 2018 was tantalizingly close, along with a freshly signed contract to ride for Norton. However a new fracture, which appeared in the weakened leg, has dashed the Morcambe Missile’s hopes.

 

“It’s annoying as I was painstakingly close. I was about a week or two away from being ready and it’s just too close, if the TT was a couple of weeks later it would be a different story,” explained McGuinness. “The leg has re-cracked on the original fracture. Where my tibia and fibular broke, just above the ankle, is where the compound fractured out the side of my leg.

 

“Initially when they put the cage on, I wasn’t growing bone, I was crushing that original fracture together and held for ten months. The surgeons never worry about that but, all they are concerned about is the top bit of bone they are regenerating, where they’ve re-broken the leg at the top and then you grow it back by stretching it 1mm per day.

 

“I had an MRI scan, TT scan, all of that on the original fracture in November and they said it was OK, but the bottom line is when I came out of the frame, did a bit of light walking and then got the go ahead to go fully weight bearing, after six days on holiday for some reason the original fracture cracked. It’s not broken, just a hairline crack on the front. The surgeon said he doesn’t understand why and reckons it’s only happened twice in 16 years!

 

“I’ve got a few little jobs lined up, a bit of work with [Michael] Dunlop, and quite a bit with Norton and I’ll also be doing some stuff for the Isle of Man Government. I don’t mind all of that, but I still want to go and enjoy myself, go to Peel and have an ice cream with my family and friends, I’ve always done that and always will do, it’s just this time I’ll be a bit more chilled! I’ve got a job to do with Norton, so I’ll no doubt be busy and being torn from pillar to post but I absolutely love it so there’s no complaints from me.”

 

The agony of waiting, and healing, is something fellow competitor and 16-time TT winner Ian Hutchinson knows all too well. Despite his incredible success on the Mountain Course having propelled him to fourth in the all time TT winners list, as well as achieving the honour of being the only rider to ever win five TT races in a single week, Hutchinson has also endured more than his fair share of pain and injury.

 

The 38 year old has toughed through repeated injury and broken bones with unparalleled resolve, and in the last seven years has seen no less four fixator cages on his left leg; enduring the same process McGuinness has recently experienced. Hutchy’s story is a remarkable one, and is matched only by his determination to return to successful racing on the Isle of Man.

 

“Success breeds success, and once you’ve had it it’s the only reason you keep on competing. The same holds true for my injuries in a way.” Hutchy told us. “The only reason to come back to racing after the accidents is to win more. It’s no different this time to 2010, I don’t really look at the injury as a hindrance, it just something else I have to work around, and make it [success] happen.”

 

Hutchinson also returns to the Isle of Man with fresh backing in the paddock. Having switched from the BMW Tyco outfit with which he has raced for since 2016, he will now throw his leg over a factory run Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade SP2.

 

“I’m really looking forward to getting started with Honda Racing; it’s a new challenge and a fresh start for me,” continued Hutchy. “I suppose I have quite a bit of history with Honda, ten years ago I rode with this official team and in 2009/2010 I rode with Padgetts Honda, where I scored five-TT wins in a week, so I know the Fireblade pretty well. The Honda team has a lot of experience at the TT and its history speaks for itself with the wins and successes over the years.”

 

Despite only just recovering from his injuries in time, Hutchy will have to bring his A-Game though. Road racing royalty Michael Dunlop will undoubtedly be on serious form and is looking to add to his ever growing tally of 15 wins and 19 podiums.

 

The northern Irishman is racing in four of the five classes this year and returns to the Isle of Man on the back of having swept to victory in the 2017 Senior TT. As a man of few words, the current outright lap record holder of the Mountain Course (133.962mph), and someone who prefers to let his riding do the talking, Dunlop simply said this of his TT 2018 ambitions: “I'm not at the TT to get second place, that's the first loser, and I'm determined to do my job and win for myself at the Tyco Team.”

 

It’s all or nothing, and business as usual at the TT this year. Check out https://www.iomtt.com/ to find out more.

 

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