2018 Isle of Man TT Superbike Races LineupWith 17 days to go before the start of the 2018 Isle of Man TT, the 82-rider lineup was confirmed for the superbike races.With the withdrawal of John McGuiness on the SG7 Norton (still recovering with injuries from last year’s North West 200), and Bruce Anstey on the Padgett Racing Honda, Michael Dunlop will lead the grid as the favorite. The 15-time TT winner has switched to Tyco BMW S 1000 RR machinery, which he will compete on in all three Superbike races: the RST Superbike, PokerStars Senior, and RL360 Superstock TT race.
Dunlop, the outright lap record holder at the 37.73-mile Mountain Course, will surely renew his rivalry with Ian Hutchinson, the 16-time TT winner who will line up on a Honda CBR1000RR this season.These riders will continue to use their usual number, Hutchinson racing with the number 4 and Dunlop the number 6.Using the prestigious number-one plate, meaning they start first during the TT races, is Conro Cummins, who will compete on Padgett Honda machinery in the superbike TTs.Following is from the official IOM TT report:Dunlop and Hutchinson will certainly face strong competition from many of the other seeded riders including the three other 132mph+ men in the field – Peter Hickman (Smiths Racing BMW), Dean Harrison (Silicone Engineering Kawasaki) and James Hillier (Quattro Plant JG Speedfit Kawasaki).Hickman, who retains the number 10 plate that served him well in 2017, has been a revelation since he first tackled the TT in 2014. Last year saw him finish on the podium in all five of his races on the island and the Burton upon Trent rider will be looking for his first win at the TT.Harrison took his first Superbike podiums last year, finishing third in both the Superbike and Senior TT races, clocking his first 132mph lap. Still only 29, he is well placed to take a race win. The Bradford based rider goes at number five, ten seconds ahead of Dunlop.Hillier starts at number two and although he will need to get back into the 132mph bracket, which he last did in 2015, he could have been on the podium in last year’s Superbike Race but for a refueling issue during his first pit stop.Michael Rutter (3), Gary Johnson (7), Dan Kneen (8) and David Johnson (9) are the other riders in the top ten. Rutter (Bathams Racing BMW) is riding as well as ever around the Mountain Course. Last year saw him record a personal best lap of 131.709mph as well as his Lightweight TT race victory so should be amongst the leading pack while Johnson will be hoping to challenge for the wins on the RAF Regular & Reserve Kawasaki after a disappointing 2017.Kneen starts in the top ten in the 1000cc races for the first time and is expected to go well on the Tyco BMW. The Manxman has a great chance of adding to the single podium he’s taken to date. Australian Johnson adds to the BMW challenge in the new Gulf BMW team and will enjoy being in the pack as opposed to starting at number one as he did in 2016 and 2017.In McGuinness’s absence, the Norton challenge will come from Josh Brookes who lines up at number 11. The Australian has a great chance of improving on both his sixth place finish in last year’s Senior TT race and his personal best lap of 130.883mph.Martin Jessopp, starting ten seconds behind Brookes, is another rider moving up the grid in 2018. Already a member of the 130mph club and a podium finisher in the Lightweight TT Races, the Yeovil man is looking to make an even greater impression this time around.Lee Johnston, lining up with Honda Racing this year, takes his usual number 13. The Ulsterman will be determined to make amends in his first year as a factory rider after last year’s practice crash at Greeba Castle ruled him out of race week.Fellow Northern Ireland rider William Dunlop, lining up in the colours of the Temple Golf Club on the only Yamaha in the top twenty, is next on the grid.Derek Sheils, riding for the Penz13.com BMW team,is ten seconds further back at 15. The Dublin rider’s recent efforts are rewarded with a seeded berth for the first time.The seeded riders are completed by Sheils’ team-mate Jamie Coward, Phil Crowe (BMW) and Steve Mercer with Mercer expected to take Hutchinson’s Honda ride if he loses his fitness battle.There are plenty of talented riders to be found outside of the seeds though including Ian Lougher (Suter MMX), Horst Saiger (Saiger Racing Yamaha), Ivan Lintin (Dafabet Devitt Racing Kawasaki), James Cowton and Adam McLean (both McAdoo Racing Kawasaki), Sam West (PRL Worthington BMW) and Daley Mathison (Stobart BMW). The entire top 30 have all previously lapped at more than 126mphAs well as regular overseas competitors such as Stefano Bonetti, Kamil Holan, Xavier Denis, Raul Torras Martinez and Bjorn Gunnarsson, this year’s entry also includes a number of Manx Grand Prix graduates including last year’s double winner Michael Evans.Eighty-one entries in total were accepted including newcomers Davey Todd, David Jackson and Adam Lyon.