When the flag drops on the Bikenation Lightweight TT on June 6th, over 80 of the world’s fastest motorcycle road racers will be looking to make history by becoming the first rider to lap at an average of over 120mph in one of the iconic festival’s most legendary races.
The Lightweight class first appeared at the 1920 Isle of Man TT races, as a sub-class within the Junior race for motorcycles up to 250cc. Ronald Clarke won that first event on a two-stroke Levis machine and since then the list of winners includes some of the biggest names in TT history, including Joey Dunlop, Mike Hailwood, Phil Read and Jimmie Guthrie.
Over the years, the Lightweight class has come and gone as part of the TT race line-up. Historically a race for 250cc two-stroke Grand Prix bikes, the class latterly moved towards 400cc supersport machines, before being dropped (along with the 125cc Ultra-Lightweight) following a rationalisation of the classes for 2005.
After a seven year absence, the Lightweight made a welcome return in 2012, running under new regulations for two-cylinder machines up to 650cc. The class, introduced to provide cost effective racing for club and road racing competition, sees bikes based upon road bikes like Kawasaki’s ER-6 and Suzuki’s SV650 lap at close to 120mph.
Despite the relatively low costs of these ‘supertwins’ (a competitive machine can be built for around £10,000) the Lightweight class delivers some of the most interesting and innovative engineering in the modern TT paddock.
Unlike the tightly homologated 600cc and 1000cc sports bikes in the supersport, superstock and superbike classes, supertwin regulations allow for items like the forks and brakes to be changed, and for teams to build bespoke fairings for the race machines.
This year sees further interest as historic Italian manufacturer Paton will be joining the party with their classically styled S1. Powered by Kawasaki’s venerable ER-6 engine, the single Paton entry will be piloted by rising star Ollie Linsdell, who won last year’s Bennetts 500cc Classic TT on one of the Italian company’s two-stroke racers. Chinese manufacturer WK Bikes will also be competing with former Supersport TT winner Gary Johnson aboard their improving WK650i.
Last year saw James Hillier win the Lightweight race, lapping at an incredible 119.130mph on his Kawasaki, almost 4mph faster than Michael Rutter’s best from the inaugural supertwins race in 2012. With the bikes continuing to develop year-on-year and now pumping out close to 100bhp, it would be no surprise to see the one of the top racers top the magical 120mph milestone in 2014.
Since it’s reintroduction in 2012, the Lightweight race has been supported by bike insurance specialists Bennetts. This year the race is sponsored by Bikenation, Bennetts’ new online retail venture offering one of the biggest selections of motorcycle clothing and accessories in the UK.
Marc Potter, Bennetts’ Head of Community, commented: “The Lightweight is undoubtedly one of the most interesting races on the TT calendar and we’re delighted to be supporting it through our new Bikenation brand. Since the race was reintroduced under the latest regulations in 2012 we’ve seen some really fantastic motorcycles, with the best ones making in the region of 100bhp. We’re really looking forward to seeing the developments that the teams have made to the bikes over the winter and to see if that 120mph barrier can be broken.”
The Bikenation Lightweight TT is scheduled to take place on Friday June 6th. The flag drops at 10.30am.