With arguably holding the title, of been the most open race of TT 2017, you could sense the excitement amongst the thousands of spectators around the Mountain Course, ahead of the Bennetts Lightweight TT.
Michael Rutter quickly underlined the potential of the SC Project Paton, as he took an early lead at Glen Helen, by 1 second over Paton team mate Stefano Bonetti, Martin Jessopp, Ivan Lintin and Dan Cooper weren’t far behind, as Peter Hickman completed the top six.
At Ballaugh Bridge, Rutter increased his lead, moving 1.667 clear over Italian Bonetti, as the distinctive sounding Paton’s set the pace, as lap 1.
From here, the Italian national anthems continued to lead an ultra competitive field, with Rutter at the end of the opening lap, enjoying a 4.4 second advantage over Bonetti, with Martin Jessopp in third, just 1 second further back.
Photo by Nick Wheeler
Reigning champion Lintin, in fourth place and new to Super Twins machinery Hickman, where in close proximity.
Dan Cooper held sixth, just 0.621 in front of Michael Dunlop, whilst the likes of James Cowton, Derek Sheils and Josh Brookes, where all showing accomplished form.
Lap 2 saw Rutter pull section by section, a second there and there, as he pulled away from Jessopp, now into second having overhauled Bonetti at Glen Helen.
Photo by Rod Neill
By Ramsey Hairpin, the race leaders advantage stood at almost nine seconds; Bonetti in third place, was coming under increasing pressure from Dafabet Devitt Racing’s Lintin, Peter Hickman in fifth, was also contending for yet another podium finish, at TT 2017.
As riders entered the pits on lap 2, Rutter lead Jessopp by 10.594 with Lintin moving into third, following Bonetti retiring at Creg Ny Ba, cruel luck for the popular Italian racer.
Hickman now into fourth place, was 28 seconds clear of Cooper who in turn held an advantage of 12.177 over McAdoo Racing’s James Cowton.
Photo by Nick Wheeler
Michael Dunlop endured a tricky lap dropping back to seventh behind his team mate, but remained in front of new to the KMR Kawasaki fold, Josh Brookes.
Following the pit stops, Rutter’s lead was significantly reduced to 2.876, following a great pit stop from Jessopp’s Riders Motorcycles crew.
The four times TT winner though, soon regained a strong grip on the race, moving by the Bungalow 7 seconds clear.
Photo by Mark Corlett
Peter Hickman jumped into third place, whilst another notable performance was coming from his KMR team mate Josh Brookes, putting himself into contention for a top six finish.
As we entered the final stage of the race, Rutter headed Jessopp by 7.937, with Hickman third, enjoying a gap of 25 seconds plus over Lintin.
Dan Cooper maintained fifth, whilst Dunlop and Brookes, where closely matched in the battle for sixth.
Rolling back the years, Michael Rutter proved on the fourth and final lap, that he’s not forgot what it takes, to record a TT victory.
Crossing the line at the completion of the fourth and final lap, the eight times Macau GP champion secured a fifth TT win, his first in the Lightweight class, and Paton’s first TT Races victory, for multiple years.
Martin Jessopp second, was still extremely happy with a new personal best TT result, whilst Peter Hickman in third place, kept up his stellar record of finishing at least on the podium, in every race he has participated in during TT 2017.
Ivan Lintin, didn’t make it a hat trick of Lightweight titles, but still finishing fourth, put up a galant defence of his crown.
Dan Cooper wrapped up a personal best TT finish of fifth, as Josh Brookes edged out Michael Dunlop, for the final spot within the top six.
James Cowton, Michael Sweeney and Jamie Hodson finalised the top ten, in a race which evoked memories of years gone by, with some of the greatest names in Italian motorcycling history.
You can just sense back in Italy, the delight at Michael Rutter’s Lightweight success. It’s a huge moment for Paton, proof that they are not just now, a specialist with classic machinery, they can also produce world class modern day mounts.
TT 2017 – Bennetts Lightweight Race Results:
1 Michael Rutter
2 Martin Jessopp
3 Peter Hickman
4 Ivan Lintin
5 Dan Cooper
6 Josh Brookes
7 Michael Dunlop
8 James Cowton
9 Michael Sweeney
10 Jamie Hodson
11 Barry Furber
12 Timothee Monot
13 Xavier Denis
14 Craig Neve
15 Callum Laidlaw
16 Rob Hodson
17 John Barton
18 Maria Costello MBE
19 Paul Jordan
20 Dave Moffitt
21 Anthony Redmond
22 Chris Petty
23 Dominic Herbertson
24 Forest Dunn
25 Rikki McGovern
26 Wayne Axon
27 Lee Hembury
28 Pete Murray
29 Ian Gardner
30 Rob Livesey
Words by Stevie Rial