Road Racing News

TT 2019: Preview – Part 4 – Bennetts 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.

Peerless last June aboard the works SC Project Paton, Mountain Course maestro Michael Dunlop as in all classes at TT 2019 starts again one of the prime, major favourites for class success.

Absent from Super Twins competition at the North West 200, Ballymoney’s Dunlop although down on track time compared to his fellow front running rivals, can never ever be underestimated.

Lightweight lap record holder, if he gels as quick as he did last year with the S1-R Paton, it’s going to take an extremely special, faultless to stop him making it successive class titles.

SC Project Paton team mate Stefano Bonetti, comes into TT 2019 in great form, after a momentous North West 200 tenure.

Victorious within the MCL Insure Tech Super Twins race, ‘Bonny’ as illustrated on numerous occasions over recent years, showcased again his deft touch on Paton machinery.

Perhaps a touch under the radar, it wouldn’t at all be a surprise to many if the likeable Bonetti places himself in strong contention next month, for race honours.

Photo by Nick Wheeler

Outside of the works team, Team ILR will also field high spec Paton’s for ten times TT winner Ian Lougher, Horst Saiger and Super Twins Manx GP lap record holder James Chawke.

Lougher, Saiger and Chawke, who claimed a top five finish on his North West 200 debut, all have the pace, race craft, Mountain Course calibre to record top quality finishes.

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

Race runner up last year, reigning Duke Road Race Rankings champion Derek McGee is widely regarded as a pre race favourite.

Twins victor at Cookstown and Tandragee, he forms as in 2018 part of KMR Kawasaki’s challenge, which this year expands to a five rider line up.

Joining McGee in the KMR Kawasaki fold are fellow widely tipped front runners, Michael Rutter and Lee Johnston, two times TT winner Gary Johnson and Welshman Matt Rees, who enjoyed strong finishes a plenty at the North West 200.

Further depth to Kawasaki’s challenge is provided by the KTS Racing duo of Dan Cooper, and Jamie Coward who starred on the coast roads last week, taking the top spot in Super Twins NW200 qualifying, prior to finishing runner up in the opening Twins race.

Photo by Tommy Vennard

Others on Kawasaki capable of making a strong impression include Michael Sweeney, Rob Hodson, Daley Mathison, Michael Evans, Dafabet Devitt Racing’s Paul Jordan, TT Races Rider Liaison Officer John Barton, Dave Moffitt, Barry Furber, Preston’s Darren Cooper and Dominic Herbertson who’s set to compete under the Cowton Racing banner.

For many the biggest story regarding this years Lightweight TT, is the inclusion of Norton, who alongside long term team member John McGuinness, have also secured the services of outright TT lap record holder Peter Hickman and second quickest Mountain Course newcomer in history, Davey Todd.

Following the striking brand new Lightweight model’s performance at the North West 200, it’s difficult to state as to how competitive McGuinness, Hickman and Todd and will be from Saturday evening on-wards.

Photo courtesy of TT Press

One things for sure though, Norton are giving it everything in pursuit of claiming a first TT success, since Steve Hislop triumphed in the 1992 Senior TT.

There’s no doubt that the upcoming four lap Bennetts Lightweight race, has all the ingredients needed to be the most competitive race of TT 2019.

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 Norton surprise all, and could there be a first time TT winner from the likes of McGee, Coward, Bonetti and Todd?

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