Roads scene faces challenging times
TT 2017 had just three newcomers on the start line – Adam Mclean, Joey Thompson and Paul Jordan.
Mclean, 21, who completed 105 sighting laps in a car as part of his preparation for his Mountain course debut, was the fastest of the trio, lapping at 120.6mph on his way to 18th place in the Supersport race.
TT race boss Paul Phillips has always focused on quality rather than quantity with rider recruitment but just three new solo competitors must give some cause for concern.
There have been efforts to recruit talent from other disciplines, including BSB riders. Peter Hickman and Josh Brookes have both made a successful transition to the roads but even they are adamant BSB remains their top priority.
For many others, finding the budget to combine a British championship challenge with big road race outings would not be feasible.
The sport has been dealt a major blow with both John Mcguinness and Ian Hutchinson suffering serious injuries this year. Everyone will be hoping the duo make a full recovery but recent events have led many road race fans to consider who will step into the breach when the likes of Mcguinness, Anstey and Rutter do eventually retire.
Events like the Southern 100, the four meetings held at Scarborough each season, plus the Irish National events have formed part of the traditional apprenticeship route for many road racers.
Current stars such as Michael Dunlop, his brother William, Guy Martin, Conor Cummins, Ivan Lintin, Dean Harrison and Dan Kneen have all honed their between-the-hedges skills at these smaller road events.
Riders such as Adam Mclean, Paul Jordan, Joey Thompson, James Cowton and Jamie Coward are following in these well worn wheel tracks. Derek Mcgee, who made an impressive Southern 100 debut last week, learnt his road racing craft at Tandragee, Skerries and his home event at Walderstown. He was the fastest newcomer at the 2015 TT.
The Southern 100 and Scarborough appear to be flourishing but the Irish National roads racing scene has suffered a worrying decline in recent years as race organisers struggle to balance rising costs with falling revenues.
So far the Motor Cycle Union of Ireland, the sport’s governing body, has failed to provide any new initiatives to address this situation and many more events are struggling to survive.
Since 2004 at least five National meetings have disappeared altogether and everincreasing insurance premiums provide the major pressure as those that remain are locked in a battle to survive.
‘Race organisers struggle to balance rising costs and falling revenues’
There were just three TT 2017 newcomers: Mclean, Thompson and Jordan