JOHN McGUINNESS REVERTS TO NUMBER ONE PLATE AT 2014 ISLE OF MAN TT RACES BUT FACES HIGH CALIBRE CHALLENGERS
With the stunning entry assembled for the 2014 Isle of Man TT Races, fuelled by Monster Energy, the excitement and anticipation is set to increase as the start numbers are now confirmed for the 1000cc solo classes. 2014 will again see riders in numbers 1-20 being seeded and it's a top twenty packed with established race winners, regular front runners and exciting new talent.
After taking number three last year to honour Joey Dunlop's first TT win for Honda, twenty-times TT winner John McGuinness will revert back to number one on the grid, with the Morecambe Missile having won races in 2011 and 2012 starting from the head of the field. The experienced Honda Racing rider will be expected to use the advantage of the clear road to try and break the chasing pack.
Ten seconds behind will be the man who shadowed him for much of last year's PokerStars Senior Race, James Hillier, and having lapped in the 131mph bracket to become the fifth fastest rider ever, the Quattro Plant Muc-Off Kawasaki rider knows he'll have to do more of the same and with McGuinness ahead on the road he'll have no better target.
Number three will, arguably, be the most celebrated rider at TT2014 with Ian Hutchinson, the five-time winner of 2010, returning to a hero's welcome. The Milwaukee Yamaha rider has been to hell and back since that achieving that magnificent feat and will be determined to get back to winning ways immediately.
He'll be pushing for his ninth TT race win with his first chance in the Dainese Superbike Race but behind him is a man challenging for his first with Guy Martin, as in 2013, heading off at number four. It's also the fourth year he's been with Hector and Philip Neill's Tyco Suzuki squad so could 2014 finally be the year?
The potential race winners come thick and fast though with the next ones to set off down Bray Hill being Bruce Anstey, Michael Dunlop and Gary Johnson. Dunlop, of course, almost swept the board in 2013, taking four race wins and a second place, but now he's made the switch to the BMW Motorrad/Hawk Racing team all eyes will be on him to see if he can continue his winning spree.
Anstey, now the second fastest rider ever, can never be ruled out and although he failed to add to his nine wins last year, he was on the pace and is still determined to take his first Superbike Race win. Likewise Johnson, who challenged for the lead in the early stages of both the Superbike and Senior Races in 2013 before technical gremlins intervened, will be looking for his first 'big bike' win.
William Dunlop has made the move to the Tyco Suzuki team and gets his first 1000cc top ten start at 8 while the top ten is completed by Michael Rutter and local hero Conor Cummins, the latter looking to replicate his 2010 form when he led the Superbike Race for four laps. Now part of the Honda Racing squad, all of his rivals know he's one to watch.
Dan Stewart, carrying the number 11 plate, will again be looking to get the SMT /Wilcock Consulting machines in amongst the factory riders while a strong lower order threat comes from number 12 in the shape of Dean Harrison. Now approaching his fourth year at the TT, Harrison is expected to be challenging for race wins on the RC Express Racing by MSS Performance Kawasaki.
Another exciting youngster, Lee Johnston, the reigning TT Privateer's Champion, can be found at number 13 and is expected to make further strides forward while arguably one of the most exciting riders at TT2014 can be found at number 14 - Josh Brookes. Now riding for Milwaukee Yamaha, the Australian rider became the fastest ever newcomer last year when he set a scorching lap of 127.726mph, beating Steve Plater's six year mark, and many are predicting a130mph lap and possible podium for the BSB star this time around.
Leading privateers Steve Mercer (15), David Johnson (16) and Dan Kneen (17) will be hoping to keep Brookes in their sights with Simon Andrews (18) looking for a strong run on Rico Penzkofer's BMW. The recent news that Cameron Donald will be back at the TT sees the double winner line up at number 19 on the Norton, echoing Steve Hislop's stunning 1992 race victory, meaning that there are three Australians in the top twenty. The final seeded rider, completing the top twenty, will be Ben Wylie, winner of the 2009 Newcomers Trophy.
Outside the top 20, race order will again be determined by qualifying times but numbers to look out for include Ryan Farquhar who has opted to take his usual number 77, which indicates he'll be looking more for enjoyable rides rather than being in the competitive mix, and the returning American Jimmy Moore, riding again for East Coast Construction, at number 21.
Jamie Hamilton, now riding for Wilson Craig Racing, will have the number 26 plate with Horst Saiger, who was second fastest newcomer behind Brookes in 2013, taking 28 while Ivan Lintin, contesting the 1000cc races for the first time, will have number 37 adorning the Taylor Lindsey Racing Honda's.
The newcomers are spread out through the entry list with Martin Jessopp and Peter Hickman taking their regular British Superbike numbers of 40 and 60 respectively. Others to look out for include former Grand Prix regular Danny Webb (66), Canadian ace Dan Kruger (71) and leading IRRC riders Vick de Cooremeter (92) and Laurent Hoffmann (93).
The RL 360 Superstock entry sees most of the riders given the same numbers although Hutchinson, Brookes and Donald have all decided not to take part which will see riders below them moving up the grid. A number will also be in different livery including McGuinness (Padgetts Motorcycles), Michael Dunlop (MD Racing) and Cummins (RAF Reserves Racing).