GRR

2024 Isle of Man TT preview

23rd May 2024
James Charman

For many, the brighter evenings and warmer temperatures signify the start of a multitude of summer activities. It might be time to get the barbecue going, the garden tidied or even perhaps the surfboard out. For a small lump of rock in the middle of the Irish Sea, however, it means closing the roads and letting some of the world’s bravest human beings loose aboard 1,000cc Superbikes at average speeds almost double that of a motorway speed limit. It is, of course, the Isle of Man TT, and here's everything you need to know ahead of the 2024 edition.

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What happened in the 2023 Isle of Man TT?

Wins in 2023 were shared evenly between Michael Dunlop and Peter Hickman, taking four wins apiece, leaving Ian Hutchinson’s record of five wins in a week intact. One of the main focuses in 2023 centred on Michael Dunlop getting ever closer to the all-time record of 26 wins, held by his legendary uncle Joey. Michael would end up just one short, but other records would tumble throughout the fortnight.

In the sidecars, Ben and Tom Birchall smashed their own lap record on their way to an 11th-straight TT win. The lap saw them become the first ever pairing to set a lap at an average of 120mph, swiftly joined in the club by Pete Founds and Jevan Walmsley. Meanwhile, Peter Hickman broke the outright lap record at an eye-watering 136mph. What made this all the more impressive was the time was set in the second Superstock TT, rather than aboard the supposedly faster Superbike.

What’s new this year?

There’s no huge shake up like there was in 2023, with the event schedule largely untouched from last year’s running. There will, however, be a new named corner for 2024. Glen Helen 1 will be renamed to ‘Rutters’ in honour of both Tony and Michael Rutter, and a special parade lap featuring Michael, John McGuinness, Phil McCallen and Ian Simpson will celebrate the lives and careers of two Rutter generations.

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Which bikes race at the Isle of Man TT?

Five classes of motorcycle will race across the TT fortnight – four two-wheeled classes and sidecars. The most powerful category of the week, the Superbike class is open to 1,000cc motorcycles offering almost 200PS (147kW) derived from a standard road bike. Also running to 1,000cc is the Superstock category, but this sees much tighter restrictions to keep the bikes as close to the machines you can ride out of your local showroom. Expect to see Honda Fireblades and BMW M1000s aplenty.

The Supersport class has undergone a transformation in recent years (an arguably needed one) and now sees 600cc four-cylinder machines compete against three-cylinder motorcycles up to 675cc. The Honda CBR600RR and Yamaha R6 were once the key runners in this category, but there has been growing competition from Triumph 765s while Davey Todd brings Ducati back to the TT with the Panigale V2.

The final two-wheel class is the Supertwins, formerly known as the Lightweight TT, a category that has now firmly established itself at the Isle of Man. Where Kawasaki and later Paton has dominated the class over the past decade, Yamaha has been steadily improving and is the most recent winner with Peter Hickman, while Aprilias are also being favoured by some riders.

Finally, the sidecar category will see every rider compete with the 600cc specification of engine, with TT legend Dave Molyneux deciding to revert from the 890cc KTM unit he has competed on in recent years.

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Who’s racing in the 2024 Isle of Man TT?

All of the usual subjects will be back at the TT, with headline acts such as Michael Dunlop, Peter Hickman, Dean Harrison, John McGuinness and Davey Todd all lining up and itching to set off down Bray Hill once more. All eyes will also be on the returning Ian Hutchinson, who had to miss 2023 due to a stroke he suffered in the off-season and Honda’s local hero Nathan Harrison, who finally makes his debut with the works squad having missed 2023 through injury.

There are no real headline-grabbing debuts in 2024 for the solo races, save for the usual Manx Grand Prix graduates, but it’s a different story for sidecars. Double reigning World and British Sidecar Champions Todd Ellis and Emmanuelle Clement compete at the TT for the first time, following in the footsteps of a plethora of World Champions who have tried their hands at the Snaefell Mountain Course.

As is often the case with the TT, it is who’s not there that make up the biggest talking points, and this year it’s Lee Johnston topping that list once again. Johnston missed last year due to a life-threatening crash at the North West 200, and while his recovery looked to be on schedule, a leg break during testing in Spain over the winter has put his return back even further. He will still be at the island, though, as part of the Manx Radio commentary team. Tom Birchall will also not be competing, having announced his immediate retirement over the winter. Birchall will join Johnston in the radio commentary box.

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Who are the favourites at the 2024 Isle of Man TT?

All eyes are on Michael Dunlop going into 2024, as he bids to overthrow Joey Dunlop at the top of the table for most TT wins. Many believed Joey’s 26 wins would be untouchable, but Michael goes into the 2024 fortnight with 25 to his name and a very real chance of not just equalling, but overtaking that tally.

What wasn't in the script for Dunlop, though, was the injury he sustained at the Cookstown 100, the first Irish road race of the season. Although not a major injury, certainly not severe enough to keep him off the bike, it was bad enough for the Ulsterman to be showing signs he was less than 100% at the North West 200, something Dunlop rarely does.

Desperate to get in Dunlop's way will be Peter Hickman, the lap record holder and staking his claim to be counted as one of the all-time greats. It's very hard to bet against Hickman when he throws his leg over his FHO Racing BMW Superbike, but it's not only the big bikes where Hickman reigns supreme, though. Hickman has won two of the last three Supertwin races around the TT course and his most recent success also comes from the Supertwin class, having won aboard his striking new Swan-backed Yamaha R7 at the North West 200.

Like Dunlop, Hickman's road to the Isle of Man has been far from ideal. A trio of crashes at Oulton Park’s British Superbike round left the 37-year-old battered and bruised before the North West, and another “near-crash” moment in practice at Donington Park last weekend saw the FHO team decide to pull Hickman out of the meeting to ensure he would be at his absolute best the TT.

Elsewhere, one of the rising stars of road racing in Davey Todd goes into the TT fortnight with his best chance at a victory to date. If you had to bet on a single class for Todd's maiden TT win, you'd probably plump for the Superstock class. The 28-year-old has competed in four Superstock races for the Milwaukee BMW outfit in 2024 and won all of them. He sits at the head of the national championship, having taken victory at both Oulton Park and Donington Park, with a double at the North West 200 slotted in between. What was all the more impressive was that first of the wins at the Triangle Circuit came barely an hour after he was skittled down the road in the opening Supersport encounter.

Supersport is another class where Todd could do well, as he bids to return Ducati to the top of the TT podium for the first time in almost 40 years. Although he was forced out of the first Supersport race at the North West, Todd bounced back to win the second, and was also on the podium twice at Navarra for the British Supersport Championship opener.

Other names in the hunt for a win include Dean Harrison, who will hope to prove his move to the Honda works team (and personal move to live on the Isle of Man) has paid dividends, while the likes of Jamie Coward, Conor Cummins and Josh Brookes will unlikely be too far away should anything happen to the expected front-runners.

When it comes to the sidecars, the form book has been thrown out of the window with the retirement of the most successful passenger of all time, Tom Birchall. Brother Ben returns but will need new man in the chair Kevin Rosseau to be up to speed right from the off if he's to keep his win streak (which dates back to 2016) intact.

With perhaps the best chance at beating a Birchall in years, expect to see Pete Founds and Jevan Walmsley pushing on for their first win, while the young stars of the future in the Crowe brothers will be snapping at their heels after an injury-impacted 2023.

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When does the 2024 Isle of Man TT start?

Practice gets underway on Bank Holiday Monday. First out will be a speed-controlled lap to get the newcomers acquainted with the course, before untimed practice for all classes throughout the remainder of the morning and timed qualifying that afternoon. 

After a week of qualifying, racing begins on Saturday 1st June at 11:45 with the first Supersport TT, followed by the first Sidecar race later that afternoon. The Superbike TT runs on Sunday, before a much-needed rest on Monday. Tuesday and Wednesday sees four races in two days in the form of the first Superstock and Supertwin races on Tuesday and the final Sidecar and Supersport races on Wednesday.

Supertwins and Superstock run again on Friday after another rest day, and the blue riband Senior TT closes proceedings on Saturday 8th June.  There is contingency for racing on all rest days, and also Sunday 9th June, should they be required.

How can I watch the 2024 Isle of Man TT?

The TT continues to be live streamed globally on its own TT+ subscription service. The coverage provides live video footage as well as full commentary and analysis from some of the sport's biggest names. It's all change in the commentary box for 2024, with current BSB pairing Steve Day and James Whitham drafted in for the TV coverage, while Matt Roberts, Grace Webb and Rick Faragher return as presenters. The usual pundits will also be back, including fan favourites Steve Plater and Cameron Donald, and are joined by recently retired Tom Birchall.

For those that want a more traditional method of following the races, Manx Radio TT will again provide its famous coverage of the event, with live timing provided on the Isle of Man TT website.

Images courtesy of IOMTT.

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