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Michael Dunlop heads stellar line-up as countdown begins to TT races

 

By Roy Harris

Isle of Man TT organisers have launched the details of competitor start numbers for the RST Superbike, RL360 Superstock and PokerStars Senior TT.

Double winner last year and current outright lap record holder for the 37-mile Mountain Circuit Michael Dunlop heads a stellar entry of some of the fastest road racers on the planet, who will line up among the top 20 seeded riders.

Despite the withdrawal of John McGuinness on the SG7 Norton through injury and Padgett Racing's Bruce Anstey fighting illness all the seeded riders have lapped in excess of 128mph, reinforcing the strength in depth and quality at the top end of the field.

First man away in all three races and the first to sample the plunge down Bray Hill under racing conditions will be Manxman Conor Cummins on a Padgett Honda,

"Starting at number one at 2018 TT for the first time. Looking forward to it. The Padgetts Racing Hondas are ready and so am I."

Even though a doubt remains over Ian Hutchinson's fitness following his Senior TT accident last year the 16-time TT winner and only man to win five solo races in one week starts at number four, 20 seconds ahead of arch rival and 15-time winner Dunlop, who sets off from number six.

They have both switched teams for 2018, Hutchinson to Honda and Dunlop taking his place at Tyco BMW for the Superbike races.

They will face strong opposition with three 132mph-plus men in the field - Peter Hickman, five times a runner-up last year starts at his usual No. 10 slot, James Hillier at No. 2 and Dean Harrison the meat in the sandwich at No. 5 between Hutchinson and Dunlop.

Michael Rutter (Bathams BMW) sets off at No. 3, Gary Johnson (RAF Regular and Reserve Kawasaki) at No. 7, Dan Kneen (Tyco BMW) No. 8 and Dave Johnson (Gulf BMW) No. 9 are all well capable of upsetting the odds.

Now Norton's sole runner Josh Brookes is just outside the top 10 starters at No. 11, 10 seconds ahead of Martin Jessopp with new Honda recruit Lee Johnston at his customary No. 13 with the only Yamaha in the top 20.

The Temple Golf Club R1 of William Dunlop starts at 14, ten seconds ahead of Penz13.com BMW runner Derek Sheils. He is followed by his team-mate Jamie Coward, Phil Crowe and Steve Mercer, who is expected to replace Hutchinson at Honda if he is not passed fit to race.

Outside the seeded riders are names like Ivan Lintin, Ian Lougher, McAdoo Kawasaki duo James Cowton and Adam McLean, Horst Saiger and Daley Mathison all looking to be inside the top 20 at the end of racing.

Among the newcomers set to make their TT debut are Davey Todd on his Cookstown BE machines, David Jackson and Adam Lyon.

The countdown to the new Enniskillen 100 road race on June 29-30, has started with re-surfacing of part of the 3.1mile Arney Circuit, on the A32 Swanlinbar Road towards Florencecourt, due to be completed this week.

The Enniskillen road race first ran between 1929 and 1952 on a 6.25mile circuit at Ballinamallard where Artie Bell was a three-time winner from 1937-39 and set the first 80mph lap on his 499cc Norton in 1948.

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