2023, A New Era For The TT

The Isle of Man TT, a time trial motorcycle road race along 37.73 miles of public roads. There is nothing like it in the world, it is an event that has been going on since 1907. Put simply it is unique.

The TT stands alone, it is the greatest of the road races and is a stark contrast to racing on homologated short circuits. There is a new schedule for TT 2023 with an untimed free practice session followed by qualifying sessions throughout the week. It is more akin to a round of the BSB Championship than a traditional TT fortnight. Does the TT need to follow the pattern of a BSB meeting or should tradition count for something?

The Saturday evening practice session has been scrapped with the newcomers controlled laps and the free practice being scheduled for Monday morning. The first qualifying session being on Monday afternoon. The next three evenings will have more qualifying sessions with the fifth and final session being on Friday afternoon.

Greg Lambert's most colourful awning in the paddock!!

In the past riders tended to build up their speeds throughout practice week, concentrating on setting up their bikes and gaining course knowledge with each session. In the pre transponder days there was a lot of foxing going on with riders doing Ballacraine to Ballacraine laps to hide their true lap speeds. These days, with transponders and GPS, the sector times are transparent leaving no opportunity to hide lap times.

For safety reasons the grid sizes have been reduced to 50 starters for the Superbike and Superstock races and 60 for the Supersport and Supertwin races. The Sidecar entry of only 33 machines will not be an issue. Another change brought in this year is that the bikes will be set off singularly for the qualifying sessions and not in pairs, again for safety reasons. I also wonder if it is to space out the riders to increase the track activity with so few riders now on the grid.

Five solo newcomers and four sidecar newcomers took part in the newcomer controlled siting lap on Monday morning. The opening day of TT 2023 being a double day session with untimed free practice in the morning and the qualifying timed session in the afternoon. Sadly for #32 Chris Schofield and Dave Ryder they crashed their 600 cc Baker Honda at May Hill on their controlled lap and sustained injuries that ended their TT campaign.

#33 Southern Ireland newcomers Derek Lynch & Anthony McDonnell, E600cc DMR Suzukiclipse Racing / Wright Stickers

The untimed morning session lacked the fervour of the usual first practice. The Supersport and Supertwin machines were first out for a 40 minute stint followed by the Superbikes and Superstock classes. Last out for a one lap session were the sidecars. In truth the morning sessions all felt a bit flat with a lack of track activity.

The glorious weekend weather hadn't gone away and it was another warm and sunny day. One man who took full advantage of the conditions was Michael Dunlop, he completed 9 laps throughout the day, probably the first rider to do so in the modern era if not ever.

Dunlop certainly wasn't hanging around, he finished the day topping he leaderboard in all four solo classes. He unofficially broke the Supertwin lap record with a lap of 122.907mph in a time of 18 minutes 25.127 seconds riding his MD Racing Paton S1-R machine. It was an impressive performance by the Ballymoney man. There were 6 laps that were over 130mph, in the Superbike class, two each by Michael Dunlop, Dean Harrison and Peter Hickman. Michael Dunlop also achieved over 130 mph MD Racing Fireblade. The fastest newcomer of the night was Macau Grand Prix winner Erno Kostamo, BMW S1000RR K67 38 Motorsports Syntainics, who lapped at 115.468mph.

#60 Four time World Endurance Champion Matthieu Lagrive, Optimark Road Racing 1000cc Yamaha

#61: Newcomer and Macau Grand Prix winner Erno Kostamo, 38 Motorsports Syntainics 1000cc BMW, at the Gooseneck

Maria Costello MBE came off her Galgorm / FHO 650cc Kawasaki at Ballaugh Bridge after being clipped by Forest Dunne. Concussion protocols mean that she is now out of the TT. Such a shame for her, her team and Colin Smyth, her sidecar passenger.

In total 224 solo qualifying laps were completed which equates to seeing a bike once every 22.8 seconds. 32 sidecar laps were completed but only 22 crews ventured out. The fastest newcomer being ex-passenger now turned driver Daryl Gibson with Tom Christie in the chair. They took their GDM Maintenance and Fabrications Ltd 600cc Suzuki CES round at 107.497mph. The quickest crew of the afternoon were Pete Founds & Jevan Walmsley, FHO Motorsport LCR Honda, at 117.431mph.



Mike Hammonds