How do you fill a seat vacated by a 23-times TT winner? Not easily, but that’s the conundrum that confronts Roger Winfield, owner of the Winfield Racing Paton that won the 2016 Senior Classic TT, and Classic TT chief Paul Phillips.
John McGuinness’ injuries mean that he can’t seek a repeat victory on the 500cc Italian twin-cylinder bike. But with less than five weeks to go before practice opens for the 2017 race, a replacement hasn’t been announced for one of the greatest rides at the Classic TT.
Team owners are naturally proud of their bikes and will not accept just any reasonably decent rider. In the case of the Mountain Circuit, there is the added responsibility for the team chief of seeking a wise head as well as a quick heart in a rider: they want to see the rider back in the paddock at the end of the race even more than they want a podium position.
So Roger Winfield is entitled to be discerning. Equally, Paul Phillips’ ambition is to fill the grid with big names who pull the crowds and the media attention. The days are ticking away…
Paddock rumours are suggesting that two heavyweight TT stars, in the form of Peter Hickman and Josh Brookes, may be making their Classic TT debuts in August. Having performed so impressively on Stuart Garner’s Nortons at the TT in June, Brookes could be associated with the illustrious marque again. However, it could be with an engine that spins round and round, rather than thumps up and down. Yes, it could be a Rotary.
There’s no prize money, championship points or major manufacturer backing involved with the Classic TT, yet it’s an event that creates massive dramas and tensions of its own, far beyond its actual importance in the global racing calendar. Keep watching BSN for updates as riders get paired with machinery in the coming days. And let’s hope that we see the Winfield Racing crew back in the paddock.