2023 Isle of Man TT Preview

25th May 2023
James Charman

As daily commutes on the Isle of Man start to look a little different, it can only mean one thing - the Isle of Man TT is almost here. The annual motorcycling mecca takes place on the small island in the middle of the Irish sea for two weeks every summer and this year at least one record is guaranteed to fall, with more races taking place than ever before.


What happened last year?

The majority of last year’s headlines were grabbed by Peter Hickman and FHO Racing, who’s partnership with Gas Monkey Garage arguably put more eyes on the event than ever before. There was to be no beating Hickman on a big bike, winning the Superbike, Superstock and Senior TTs, as well as winning the Supertwin TT after a race-long battle with Michael Dunlop.

Dunlop was also in fine form last year, securing a double Supersport victory and breaking his own lap records in the process. Finally, the Birchall brothers utterly dominated the Sidecar races, but it was another pair of brothers who turned heads, with Ryan and Callum Crowe making their first visits to an Isle of Man podium after just 10 laps around the 37.73-mile Mountain Course. 


What’s new this year?

The most obvious difference for this year’s Isle of Man TT is the sheer number of races taking place across race week. An additional two races have been squeezed into the schedule for 2023, with the Senior TT no longer scheduled for its traditional bank holiday Friday slot. Instead, the Senior will now close out race week on a Saturday - as it did last year due to numerous delays - and there are additional races for both the Superstock and Supertwin classes. That means that every category racing at the TT now has two bites at the cherry across the week.

Who’s racing (or not) this year?

Perhaps the biggest return to the Isle of Man TT this year is Australia’s Josh Brookes, who last competed aboard a Norton SG7 in 2018. Having moved to FHO Racing in the British Superbike Championship for 2023, and with Faye Ho’s team well known for its love of road racing and the TT, it was no surprise to see the confirmation that Brookes would be returning to the Isle of Man this summer. His best result came in the 2018 Senior TT, coming home in fifth aboard the Norton, but Brookes has enjoyed the taste of victory on the Mountain Course, winning the Senior Classic TT at the historic event in 2017 aboard a 1962 Paton.

Unfortunately, a number of previous favourites will not be lining up for practice this coming week, either due injury or simply going in different directions for this year. The most noticeable of these will be Lee Johnston, one of the riders expected to be at the sharp end of both the Supertwin and Supersport categories. Johnston was leading the British Supersport Championship before suffering major injuries at the North West 200, where he remains in hospital in Belfast.

Also missing the TT due to an incident at the North West will be Nathan Harrison, the star of the future who had just landed his dream ride alongside the legend John McGuinness in the works Honda outfit. Harrison steps into the seat vacated by Glenn Irwin, who last year became the fastest ever newcomer at the TT and finished eighth in his first ever race around the Snaefell Mountain. Over the winter, Irwin swapped Honda for Paul Bird Motorsport, a move which he admitted was made with the intention of becoming British Superbike champion, and leaving no room for a TT entry.


Who are the favourites?

It’s hard to look past Peter Hickman when talking Superbike and Superstock categories at the Isle of Man TT, even if the FHO Racing team missed out on the opportunity to shakedown their bikes in a competitive setting at the North West 200. Confusion over regulations between the event and the MCUI left the team no option but to withdraw its entries, meaning both Hickman and Brookes missed out on valuable track time on the BMW M1000RR. However, it’d take a brave man to bet against Hickman on a 1000cc machine at the Isle of Man.

Snapping at his heels will be the usual suspects of Dean Harrison, Hickman’s closest rival in recent years, aboard the DAO Racing Kawasaki, and the road racing enigma that is Michael Dunlop. It’s unlikely, but if everything went right for Dunlop in 2023, we could be looking at a new King of the Mountain, as the Ballymoney man sits just five victories behind his legendary uncle Joey in the all-time winners list. Dunlop was right on the pace at the North West 200, and while overhauling Joey’s record is incredibly unlikely, there is a very real possibility that Dunlop could equal John McGuinness’ total of 23 victories this year.

One rider desperate to finally work his way to the top step of an Isle of Man podium is the Padgetts-backed Davey Todd. When talking about stars of the future, it’s impossible to not mention Todd, who was a real breakout star at the event 12 months ago. Todd romped home to victory in both Supersport races at the North West 200 earlier in the month, and it surely won’t be long before the youngster takes a hugely popular victory around the Mountain Course.

Looking at the three-wheeled races, you’ll find it hard to get odds on anyone but the Birchall brothers. Ben and Tom have been dominating the sidecar class for the last few years, and have racked up 12 TT wins in the process. So much is their grip on the category that the question is no longer “can they win again”, but “will they set the first 120mph lap while winning”. Shortened races due to red flags stopped them from achieving that last year, so you can imagine they’ll have the bit between their teeth to set the record this time around.


When does it start?

Practice week starts on Bank Holiday Monday, with newcomers scheduled to go on their first laps at 10:40am. Qualifying will then take place each evening, before racing begins on Saturday June 3 with the first Supersport and Sidecar TTs. Further races will be held on Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, culminating in the Senior TT on Saturday June 10.

How can I watch?

The easiest way by far is to subscribe to the TT’s own streaming service TT+. For a £19.99 fee, you are able to watch every race, practice and qualifying session live, with a top team of former riders and experts providing analysis throughout the two weeks. Highlights are also available for UK viewers on ITV4 each night throughout race week.

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