Road Racing News

TT 2018: Preview – Part 3 – Lightweight Race

Factory teams, high calibre independent outfits, various rising stars, Manx GP winners all form part of what is widely regarded as the strongest Bennetts Lightweight TT entry of modern times.

Perhaps a touch under the radar last year, it’s very much a different case 12 months on for reigning Lightweight TT champion Michael Rutter, given the now proven front running Mountain Course, international roads quality of the S1-R Paton.

Absent from Super Twins competition at the North West 200, the evergreen Rutter is reunited this May/June with the Paton steed that propelled him to a popular fifth TT triumph.

Photo by Mark Corlett

Considered amongst the major pre race favourites, the Bathams backed racer’s pursuit of retaining the Lightweight class crown is certain to come under threat from a host of talented, fierciously determined riders that includes new works SC Project Paton team mate Michael Dunlop.

Targeting an unprecedented six wins in a week at TT 2018, the enigmatic Dunlop whilst not considered by many a twins specialist has the undoubted ability to add a Lightweight victory to a TT CV which presently includes 15 wins, 25 podium finishes and Supersport, Superbike, Senior and out right lap records.

Concluding SC Project Paton’s all star three rider team is leading Italian Mountain Course competitor of the modern era, Stefano Bonetti.

In strong contention last year for a rostrum finish, it wouldn’t at all be a surprise to many if the likeable Bonetti places himself in strong contention for race honours.

Outside of the works team, Team ILR will also field factory backed Paton’s for ten times TT winner Ian Lougher and his protege Joe Thompson.

Photo by Rod Neill

There will no doubt be lots of focus on York based Thompson’s progress, given his recent splendid displays at the North West 200 which saw bank maiden international roads podium finishes.

Although he’s only competed for the second time at the TT, in my opinion he’s a dark horse for at minimum a top five finish.

Kawasaki’s Lightweight class presence is as ever vastly strong, with once again more than fifty percent of the entry piloting ER6/Z650 machinery.

Dafabet Devitt Racing’s Ivan Lintin who hasn’t tackled a closed roads event since last years Macau GP, is unquestionably capable of making it a hat trick of Lightweight TT titles.

One of the greatest ever Super Twin exponents, he’s quietly confident of a tumultuous Lightweight class assault at TT 2018, same applies to recent North West 200 twins race winners Martin Jessopp and James Cowton.

Photo by Nick Wheeler

Riders Motorcycles Jessopp, race runner up last year, McAdoo Kawasaki’s Cowton third in the Lightweight race of TT 2014, both more than have what it takes to join the TT winners circle.

McAdoo Kawasaki mounted for the Superbike, Supersport, Superstock and Senior races, Tobermore’s Adam McLean (Roy Hanna Motors) quickest Mountain Course newcomer last year, whilst perhaps not considered a race winning contender is most definitely a dark horse for a place on the rostrum.

Further depth to Kawasaki’s challenge is provided by Ryan Farquhar’s all star KMR trio of Peter Hickman, Danny Webb, the very much on form Derek McGee and class newcomer Ian Hutchinson.

Plus Privateers champion from 2013 Dan Cooper, Rob Hodson, Maria Costello MBE, Jamie Williams (JLG Racing), John Barton, Xavier Denis (Optimark Road Racing), Michael Sweeney (Kiely Heating Racing) and fellow Manx GP winners Andy Dudgeon (VRS Racing), Darren Cooper (Team DCR) and Michael Evans (Martin Bullock Manxsport).

Photo by Jim Gibson

CF Moto/WK Bikes challenge is once again lead by two times TT winner Gary Johnson, whilst anticipated leading Suzuki runner is Hebden Bridge’s Jamie Coward who’s set to jointly compete under the PreZ Racing/JHS Racing banner.

There’s no doubt that the four lap Bennetts Lightweight race, has all the ingredients needed to be the most competitive race of TT 2018.

It’s going to be fascinating to see who emerges on top, will the Paton’s rule the roost again? Can KMR Kawasaki roll back the years? Could we see a first time TT winner from the likes of Cowton, Jessopp, Hickman?

These are just a number of open ended questions that will be answered next month, as a host of the world’s best road racers battle it out for the increasingly prestigious Bennetts Lightweight title.

Words by Stevie Rial

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