20 WEEKS TO GO: ENTRIES FLOOD IN
TT entries opened last week and, with only 20 weeks to go until competitors re-acquaint themselves with the Mountain Course, organisers are reporting unprecedented early interest.
Despite the two-year hiatus, the expectation is that the entry for TT 2022 will once again be brimming with real quality, boasting all the race favourites whom fans know and love, as well as some eye-catching newcomers among a larger wave of rising stars.
Fans anticipating the first TT since 2019 will also find their expectations matched by the continuing presence of all the top manufacturers, whose number is actually set to expand in 2022 following the introduction of new regulations. There will also be a notable first appearance on the island for a number of teams and sponsors.
Fit and focused: Can Michael Dunlop oust Hickman and Harrison?
Indeed TT 2022 will see a number of race favourites competing in new or unfamiliar colours, not least the fastest man around the Mountain Course, Peter Hickman. Still seen by many as the man to beat, the easy-going 5-time winner will this time spearhead the efforts of FHO Racing. No doubt team principal, Faye Ho, will eagerly be anticipating the team’s first TT campaign, but some things remain the same for Peter: BMW machinery and crew chief Darren Jones for two.
Before Covid-19, TT fans were getting used to a two-way tussle between Hickman and his closest rival, Dean Harrison. Having upped the ante in 2018 with that nail-biting Senior TT, the pair didn’t disappoint fans in 2019, taking a win apiece in the two big-bike races. Dean will also enjoy some continuity, sticking with the team he’s had so much success with, albeit with a new name and new livery for 2022.
That two-way tussle could easily become a three-way fight, however. Struggling with previous injuries during the 2019 event, Michael Dunlop reports that he’s now back to full fitness, the break in proceedings doing him no harm. A fit and focussed Dunlop is a formidable proposition, and where he might slot into the leaderboard now that he’s again firing on all cylinders is a question that’s likely to spark some lively debate among fans.
McGuinness reunites with Honda, but will there be a reunion with the ‘Silver Lady’?
Equally fascinating is the return to Honda Racing of one John McGuinness. Having endured a torrid time of things since 2017, the 23-times TT winner is now looking forward to his 100th TT start with the full might of Honda Racing at his back. After an eye-catching season in BSB underlining his impressive return of form, could the experienced campaigner reclaim his crown and close in on Joey Dunlop’s record of 26 TT victories?
His team will hope so – especially as the famous manufacturer is celebrating 30 years of the fabulous Fireblade in 2022 – yet it is newcomer, Glenn Irwin, who could better lay claim to the successful development of Honda’s latest race-winner. Following in the wheel-tracks of Hickman and Josh Brookes, the Carrickfergus ace is the latest frontrunner from BSB to switch attention to the Mountain Course, and all eyes will be on that rookie record, set by Hickman in 2014.
Also Honda-mounted is local hero, Conor Cummins, who continues to ride for Clive Padgett and his team. Describing the new Fireblade as a ‘total weapon’, TT 2022 could represent the Manxman’s best chance of success to date. Having enjoyed a clean sweep of four straight podiums in the Superbike and Senior classes, the Isle of Man ace will again be pushing for that elusive win.
Number one: Will Conor Cummins finally finish top of the pile in 2022?
Another man racking up podium finishes is James Hillier. Like Conor, the Bournemouth battler is often in the mix, and a change of scenery is perhaps the last piece of the jigsaw in his mission to secure a big-bike win. After a decade with Bournemouth Kawasaki, he switches allegiance to OMG Racing, who look set to make their delayed TT debut in 2022 with Yamaha machinery lined up in the garage.
Stepping away from the big-bikes, TT fans will no doubt be interested to see if Lee Johnston can build on his debut win in 2019. The chirpy Johnston impressed many during his first full season back in BSB, and, if it wasn’t for his lengthy battle with ill-health, perhaps he’d have claimed the Supersport title in 2021. Despite narrowly missing out, the Northern Irishman will return to the TT as a favourite for honours in the smaller capacity classes.
Those classes bring other names into the mix too, with TT winner Gary Johnson and Mountain Course podium men, Adam McLean, Derek McGee, Jim Hind and Stefano Bonetti all proving their prowess on the lighter machines.
Cracked it: Will Lee Johnston pick up where he left off in 2019?
Jim Hind, in particular, is likely to attract plenty of interest as he makes his full TT debut, but he is just one of a whole new generation of up-and-coming riders that includes the likes of double-MGP winner, Nathan Harrison, fellow local ace, Jamie Cringle, and Joe Loughlin.
There’s plenty of new-blood in the sidecar class too as British F2 Champion, Lee Crawford, and Island resident, Harry Payne, each make their driver debuts. Payne is no stranger to the TT, however, having previously partnered 17-times TT winner, Dave Molyneux, but his transition to the driver’s seat has been both seamless and successful.
Payne’s debut as a driver will be highly anticipated, and fans will no doubt want to see if he can usurp fellow locals Ryan and Callum Crowe as the fastest ever newcomer. The Crowe brothers, meanwhile, are simply looking forward to finally building on their incredible first year as TT racers. Severely hampered in 2019 by the weather and a lack of track time, it remains to be seen just what this pair are truly capable of achieving.
The same could also be said of Maria Costello, who became the first female competitor to compete in both the solo and sidecar classes at the very same event. She’s made no secret of her ambition to secure the title of fastest female on three wheels, and will be equally keen to pick up where she left off.
Will Ryan and Callum Crowe eventually emulate the Birchall brothers?
As well as the recent influx of young talent, the sidecar class is also set to benefit from a recent overhaul of its regulations, meaning new powerplants and new manufacturers for TT 2022. Sidecar legend, Dave Molyneux, is the first of the favourites to take advantage of the new rules; his KTM-powered outfit set to strike a different note this June.
Also in for a real shake-up is the Lightweight TT, which gets a new name as well as a new rulebook; the latest regulations allowing both Yamaha and Aprilia to compete in the Supertwin class for the first time.
Without doubt, both manufacturers have produced stunning motorcycles, but could we really see the newcomers break the dominance of Paton and Kawasaki in their first year? With some of the top riders already circling the new machines, the new-look Supertwin TT may yet be the race that throws up the most surprises.
Could Stefano Bonetti be the next non-native English speaker to win a TT?
Which manufacturer eventually comes out on top in the Supertwin TT remains to be seen, but whichever way you cut it, class honours look set to be a ‘Battle Royale’ between those two hotbeds of motorcycling: Japan and Italy.
The TT’s international flavour comes less from its manufacturers, however, but more from its competitors, who increasingly reflect the event’s growing stature and influence worldwide. Indeed, organisers are also reporting an early spike in interest from overseas riders, confirming the possibility that, despite the ongoing difficulties with international travel, more nationalities than ever may yet be represented at TT 2022.
Dark horse: Is there anyone better at getting back on top after years away?
TT 2022 is already shaping up to be everything fans hoped for, but there’s still a lot we don’t know – and we wouldn’t have it any other way as we enter ‘silly season’. What will be the final destination for 16-time TT winner, Ian Hutchinson? Which team will make a play for the TT’s brightest young talent, Davey Todd? Who will ride what? And how will they all line up?
If you, like us, love the countdown to TT 2022 and the revealing of those all-important start numbers, there’s a pile of new content coming this spring that promises to fill in all the blanks.
THE TT NEWSLETTER
Perhaps the best way to ensure you don’t miss a thing, the TT Newsletter delivers all the latest news, features, products, podcasts and video content straight to your inbox. Subscribers will also receive everything they need to know about the TT’s upcoming video platform, including information on how to watch the TT live in 2022.
Jump online and find us @ttracesofficial to keep bang up to date with all the latest. We’ll also be live-streaming some events during 2022, including the TT Preview Show this spring.
THE TT PODCAST
New for 2022, The TT Podcast is your fortnightly audible guide to the races and racers. Episode 1, featuring Peter Hickman, is available here, but ten more superb guests will feature between now and TT 2022, lifting the lid on their preparations.
OVER THE TOP
Launching in the spring of 2022, the TT’s very own digital TV channel will be the exclusive home of live race coverage. Featuring the very best of the action from around the course, the channel will also boast rider stories, in-depth interviews and newly-captured footage that is set to immerse fans in the TT like never before. Fans will also be able to access other live events such as the TT Preview Show and, in the near future, the event’s first Esports competition.