The 50th anniversary of Japanese giant Honda’s first Isle of Man TT in June will be celebrated with a proven winning line-up featuring 14-times TT victor John McGuinness and Steve Plater. The duo will also race at the North West 200 in May.
Honda’s biggest challenge on the roads this year is likely to come from the formidable Relentless Suzuki by TAS team, which dominated the 2008 TT. TAS returns with Cameron Donald and Bruce Anstey, both winners last year on the Island.
Many expected Guy Martin to take his first Isle of Man TT win in 2008, and his domination of the early phase of the TT Superbike race showed he clearly had the speed. However, mechanical woes left him without victory for another year.
In 2009, Martin will continue with the Hydrex Honda squad, although the Lincolnshire rider briefly flirted with a move to Yamaha.
Veteran Ian Lougher will be back to add to his tally of TT wins. The Blackhorse Finance Yamaha rider has competed in 99 TT races and will break the magical 100 mark in 2009.
The other top Yamaha with the North West 200-backed Rob Mac Racing Yamaha of Michael Rutter. While a definite for the North West in May, negotiations for him and the team to race at the Isle of Man TT are still ongoing.
Kawasaki will have a strong representation with the welcome return of McAdoo Kawasaki Racing, the Northern Ireland team having signed Manxman Conor Cummins, so impressive at the recent Macau Grand Prix.
Ryan Farquhar flew the Kawasaki flag in 2008, putting in five rides, and the Dungannon-based privateer is sure to be amongst the frontrunners once more.
The 2009 TT will also mark the sensational return of one of the most iconic names in British motorcycling history – Norton. The new version of Brian Crighton’s 588cc special is set to make its TT debut next year, and what better name to be on board than that of Dunlop. Michael Dunlop was a revelation in 2008 and is sure to earn even more fans as the 21-year-old follows in the footsteps of his legendary father, who piloted the JPS Norton in the early 1990s. Meanwhile, elder brother William will be back in the Island in the colours of CD Racing.
Gary Johnson (Uel Duncan Racing) and Keith Amor (Wilson Craig Racing) were extremely impressive in 2008, both in their second year on the Mountain Course, and will return with their respective teams to challenge for top honours, while the evergreen Adrian Archibald silenced all his doubters this year with another Superbike podium and he will be well to the fore once more.
How the top roads men line up:
HM Plant Honda: John McGuinness, Steve Plater
Uel Duncan Honda: Gary Johnson
Hydrex Honda: Guy Martin
Wilson Craig Racing Honda: Keith Amor
McAdoo Kawasaki: Conor Cummins
Harker Kawasaki: Ryan Farquhar
Norton Racing: Michael Dunlop
Relentless Suzuki: Cameron Donald, Brue Anstey
AMA Racing Suzuki: Adrian Archibald
Black Horse Finance Yamaha: Ian Lougher
NW200 Yamaha: Michael Rutter
tba: Ian Hutchinson