Big changes afoot as this year’s TT start numbers cause a surprise

John McGuinness leads the Superbike race off the line on the Glencrutchery Road on his Honda Racing Fireblade. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON

John McGuinness leads the Superbike race off the line on the Glencrutchery Road on his Honda Racing Fireblade. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON

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Kiwi Bruce Anstey is the big mover following confirmation of this year’s start numbers for the Isle of Man TT Superbike and Senior races.

The Valvoline Padgett’s Honda rider will carry the number two plate on his Fireblade, setting off 10 seconds behind outright lap record holder and 23-time winner John McGuinness.

It is a major change for Anstey, who has raced with his famous number five at the TT every year since 2004 with the exception of 2010, when he raced with the number one plate. With several big changes announced compared to previous seasons, James Hillier goes at number three on the Quattro Plant Muc-Off Kawasaki ZX-10R.

Yorkshireman Ian Hutchinson, back to his best with a treble last June to move up to 11 wins around the Mountain Course, carries number four on the Tyco BMW, while Ulster Grand Prix Superbike winner Peter Hickman is an early starter on the JG Speedfit Kawasaki at five, one place ahead of Michael Dunlop.

Ballymoney man Dunlop returns to the number six he used in 2013 and 2014, when he dominated at the TT, chalking up eight wins in two years.

Riding the Buildbase BMW, Dunlop will be aiming to make amends for a troubled 2015 campaign, when he sensationally split from Milwaukee Yamaha during practice week.

Previous two-time Supersport TT winner Gary Johnson will again have the number seven plate, this time on the Penz13.com BMW, and will be followed down Glencrutchery Road by William Dunlop on the CD-IC Racing Yamaha R1 and the evergreen Michael Rutter (Bathams/SMT Racing BMW). Manxman Conor Cummins completes the top 10 on the second Honda Racing machine.

As revealed exclusively in the News Letter in January, Cameron Donald has returned to Wilson Craig for 2016 and sets off behind Cummins at number 11. Donald finished second in the Superbike race for three successive years between 2011-2013 and the Adelaide-based rider will again be eager to make his presence felt.

Silicone Engineering is a new team among the seeded outfits in the number 12 spot but it’s familiar territory for rider Dean Harrison, who starts one position ahead of Fermanagh’s LeeJohnston on the East Coast Construction BMW. Manxman Dan Kneen on the Mar-Train Racing Yamaha starts ten seconds later with Australian ace David Johnson completing the top 15 on the factory Norton.

Going off at 16 will be Dungannon’s Ryan Farquhar, who has taken over the second Tyco BMW seat from Guy Martin at the TT this year.

Dan Stewart (Wilcock Consulting Honda), Martin Jessopp (Riders Motorcycles BMW), Steve Mercer (Jackson Racing Honda) and last year’s Bennetts Lightweight TT winner Ivan Lintin, who features amongst the Superbike seeds for the first time on the Devitt RC Express Racing Kawasaki, complete the top 20.

There’s no shortage of talent outside the top 20 with the likes of Meath’s Alan Bonner, Dan Cooper, Sam West, Daniel Hegarty and Ryan Kneen all back for another effort as is veteran racer Ian Lougher, who lines up on the awesome Suter 580cc two-stroke.