This year’s Monster Energy Supersport 600cc races received more entries than any of the other classes at the 2017 Isle of Man TT Races fuelled by Monster Energy, and the two four-lap races see minor changes from the 1000cc bikes in the order among the twenty seeded riders.
The man to beat is undoubtedly Ian Hutchinson. The ‘Bingley Bullet’ has won the last four 600cc TT races with doubles in both 2015 and 2016. He will again be riding for McAMS Yamaha team and, with seven wins in the class already - half of his 14 TT career victories - he will start the races as the clear favourite. As in the 1000cc races, he will have the number four plate.
The rider with the honour of starting at number one on this occasion is Lee Johnston. The Ulsterman will be leading the field away for the first time in his TT career. Riding the Jackson Racing Honda, Johnston is still seeking his first podium in the class and 2017 could well be the year he achieves it.
Bruce Anstey (Padgetts Honda) and James Hillier (JG Speedfit Kawasaki), the next two riders on the grid, will have the same start position as the three 1000cc races. Anstey won the race for the Batley-based team in 2011 and 2012 and has taken no less than six successive second places between 2013 and 2015 so will be a major threat. Hillier enjoyed strong runs in the two races in 2016, finishing second and fourth and clocking a new personal best 600cc lap marginally under 127mph.
John McGuinness (Jackson Racing Honda), Michael Dunlop (MD Racing Yamaha) and Conor Cummins (Padgetts Honda) continue at numbers five, six and seven respectively and although Dunlop hasn’t won a 600cc race since 2014 he still holds the lap record of 128.666 (17:35.659), which he set in 2013. He will be keen to get back to winning ways after the controversy of last year that saw the Northern Ireland rider disqualified from the opening race.
Gary Johnson moves back into the top ten for the Supersport races with the Lincolnshire rider taking the number eight plate. He continues with Triumph machinery, this time riding the bikes campaigned in 2016 by Lee Johnston, and having been victorious twice already, in 2011 and 2014, he certainly cannot be discounted.
Dean Harrison will start at number nine on the Silicone Engineering Kawasaki and, with two podiums in last year’s corresponding races, he will be firmly gunning for his second TT win. Peter Hickman, the second Triumph rider in the top ten, goes ten seconds behind Harrison and his Smiths Racing team have already won the race in 2014 with Johnson.
Michael Rutter, who posted his best ever 600cc lap at more than 125mph in 2015, retains the same number 11 slot. He will be riding a Yamaha for former racer Stephen Thompson. David Johnson starts ten seconds behind Rutter although the Norton Racing rider has yet to confirm his ride for the middleweight division.
Jamie Coward will take the number 13, usually run by Johnston with the Radcliffe Racing rider becoming a seeded rider for the first time – recognition for his results in 2016 when he took a pair of 12th placed finishes and lapped in excess of 124mph.
Three historically fast riders follow Coward although two of them – Dan Kneen (14) and Josh Brookes (16) are still searching for competitive mounts. Another potential winner, William Dunlop, riding the Caffrey International Yamaha, bisects the pair.
Steve Mercer and Martin Jessopp will start at number 17 and 18 on the Devitt RC Express Racing Kawasaki and Riders Motorcycles Triumph respectively with further changes from the 1000’s start list at 19 and 20. James Cowton will start from number 19 on the McAdoo Racing Kawasaki with Dan Cooper setting off at number 20. Dan Hegarty and Ivan Lintin, both seeded riders in the 1000cc classes, drop out of the top twenty for the Monster Energy Supersport Races.