TT's greatest races: Lightweight TT (week 4)

MCN Greatest TT Races

MCN’s search for the Greatest TT races of the last 25 year continues and this week it’s the turn of the Lightweight class. With the current 650cc twins being introduced in 2012, we’re also including races before that meaning we get to delve into the archives of the iconic 250cc and 400cc races.

Jump direct to the vote here, or continue reading for our summaries of each race.

Our panel of experts are made up of the greatest living TT racer John McGuinness, esteemed team boss Clive Padgett, TT Businness Development Manager Paul Phillips, renowned TT photographer Stephen Davison, TT journalists and statistician Phil Wain along with the 2019 Senior TT winner Dean Harrison.

  • Related: You can vote for your favourite Sidecar race of all time here
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  • Related: You can still vote for your favourite Supersport race of all time here

Then it’s your turn to get involved as you’ll be able to vote on what you think is the greatest Supersport TT of the last 25 years with the winning race being featured in detail in MCN’s special TT supplement on 24 June.

MCN readers who vote will be in the running to win the RST IOM TT Team textile jacket pictured below...

Win this RST TT Team jacket!

Stephen Davison – Photographer and Journalist

1998 250CC RACE

“Joey left his rivals scratching their heads”

Joey Dunlop 1998 Lightweight TT

No-one gave Joey Dunlop an ice cube’s chance in hell of winning anything at the 1998 TT when he arrived with a broken pelvis, collarbone and his wedding ring finger amputated following a Tandragee 100 crash.

Halfway around the first lap of the 250cc race a light shower had turned into a torrential deluge. The race was already cut by a lap and most of Dunlop’s main rivals pitted at the end of the opening lap to make the third circuit a flier.

The wily Ulsterman didn’t pit, reckoning conditions were so bad there might be a further reduction. As he passed the grandstand the organisers announced the result would be declared after two laps leaving him with an unassailable lead. Joey used all of his Mountain course experience to make a brilliant tactical call and claim his fourth Lightweight win in a row as his rivals were left scratching their heads.   

 Clive Padgett – Milenco by Padgetts Motorcycles

2017 Classic Lightweight TT

“The greatest ever single lap on a 250”

Bruce Anstey's 120mph lap on a 250

I know this is cheating a bit as it’s not the actual TT, but the greatest ever lap of the TT course on a 250, without question is Bruce Anstey’s 120mph lap at the Classic TT. It wasn’t just the first 120mph lap, it’s the only 120mph lap on a 250.

We’d built the bike in four days from scratch and we hadn’t even had chance to run it anywhere before getting to the Island. Anyway before that Bruce had thrown into conversation that he thought he could do a 120mph lap on the 250. In the first lap of the race he did a 119.7mph, and then on his second lap slowing down for the pits he did 120.475mph. And for me that is up there with the all time best laps of the TT even alongside Hicky’s 135mph lap, because on a 250 you have to be pin point accurate and keep the speed running through all the turns.

Paul Phillips – TT Business Development Manager

2019 Lightweight TT

“Michael won despite everything that was going on in his life”

2019 Michael Dunlop's win in Lightweight TT

The race for victory was really close, Michael Dunlop won it, but it was only by a second from Jamie Coward who got his first TT podium. But the reason it was special was because Michael had had almost a year off racing having lost his brother William. He’d virtually not ridden, plus he was injured including a broken wrist. He’d had a hard time at the Nw200 and a hard time at the TT up until that point. Having won so much in the past, maybe for some a win in the Lightweight race doesn’t stand out, but for me it showed how much of a true champion he was and that he was still able to take a TT victory – which is something so few people are able to do – despite everything that was going on in his life. And in the winners enclosure you could see a lot of emotions going through his mind. He has a really interesting relationship with the Italian Paton team. People aren’t aware that Michael doesn’t get paid to ride for the team and when they offered him a bonus for winning he gave it to the mechanics as a thank you so they could have a night out. It was the result that was important to Michael.

Phil Wain – TT journalist

1997 Lightweight TT

“Joey won and McGuinness gor his first TT podium”

Phillip McCallen at 1997 Lightweight TT

The race was one of two halves – the first, a fight for the lead and the second a battle for the podium. Having won for the last three years, Joey Dunlop was again the favourite but Phillip McCallen was desperate to win the one race that had continued to elude him.
Just 1.2s separated the duo at half race distance but McCallen opted to change his rear tyre, the first ever in the race, in a bid to overhaul Dunlop in the final two laps. However, the decision meant he dropped back 18s and he crashed at Quarry Bends, as he tried to claw back the deficit.
The unflappable Dunlop was now 40s clear but all eyes fell on the titanic four-man scrap for second between Ian Lougher, Gary Dynes, Shaun Harris and, in only his second TT, John McGuinness. Going into the final lap, just four seconds covered the quartet with Dynes holding onto second. Dynes hit gearbox trouble, dropping to fifth, and Harris had to ease the pace with a broken footrest. Lougher claimed the runners-up spot by just 1.4s after setting the fastest lap of the race, with McGuinness third; giving a glimpse of what lay ahead.

Dean Harrison – Senior TT winner

2015 Lightweight TT

“Ivan put so much effort into the Lightweight class”

Ivan Lintin at 2015 Lightweight TT

I’m a bit biased because Ivan is a good mate of mine. I can remember the podium and Hillier was frustrated because he really wanted to win that one. It was Ivan’s first TT win, I wasn’t in the race and I can remember listening to it on the radio. People only really started to notice Ivan when he started racing the big bikes, like when he won the Gold Cup on a Fireblade, but he was never really a big bike rider – he was a 250 rider that came from racing a Yamaha TZ250 at Scarborough and in Ireland. He loved racing smaller bikes and the years he won he put so much time and effort in to the class. He built his own bikes so to take the Lightweight win in 2015 and then again in 2016 meant so much to him.

John McGuinness – 23 time TT winner

2002 Lightweight 400

“If you cut him in half he’d have IOM TT written”

Milky Quayle at 2002 Lightweight 400

There are loads of races to choose from, but personally I think we need a 400 race in there because the bikes were beautiful – what the manufacturers did by stopping developing them I’ll never know. So the race for me was when Milky Quayle won in 2003 – he must have been the last Manx winner. He was riding one of those Honda CBR400RRs those things revved to 18,000. I don’t think lap times were amazing or that it was a brilliant race, but the nice thing about Milky winning was the absolute joy he showed after the race and it highlighted just how much passion he has for the TT. If you look at the emotion running out of Milky and the reaction from everyone in the paddock in the winners enclosure – it was amazing. If you cut him in half he’d have IOMTT written inside him. So far him to get a win I feel is quite special, I was in that race too, but I was way down, I think I finished seventh!

The prize!

When you vote you’ll be entered into a free prize draw to win an RST IOM TT Team Textile jacket. 

Win this RST TT Team jacket!

The RST Official Isle of Man TT Collection stands out from the rest. The RST IOM TT Team CE Textile Jacket is fully CE Certified and also has an adjustable waist for a more anatomical fit. This motorcycle jacket has official sponsor embroidery and gives you that additional connection to the Isle of Man race series. Winner can choose from sizes S - 4XL.

To check out the full range of RST Official TT Clothing that includes a  one-piece leather race suit, several leather and textile jackets, casual CE approved riding boots, gloves and a collection of street-wear visit the RST Moto site.

How to enter

Simply select your choice of the greatest Lightweight race, enter your details and submit your vote to be entered into the prize draw. Good luck!

T&Cs: The prize draw closes at midnight May 26, 2020. This competition is open to British Isles residents aged 16 and over. There is one prize consisting of one RST IOM TT Team Textile jacket (102233). Winner must choose from sizes 40/S - 52/4XL. The winner will be the first name drawn at random from all valid entries after the closing date and notified by email and has 30 to respond before an alternative winner is chosen. This prize may be offered in a limited number of other promotions. No purchase is necessary. To enter for free visit www.motorcyclenews.com/greatest-TT-races/. Full terms and conditions can be here.

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Michael Guy

By Michael Guy

Sports Editor, former 250-racer and adventure rider