As I write this, I should be on my way to the Isle of Man for the 2021 TT Races. But I’m not. Because the 2021 TT races aren’t happening. Cheers COVID. It’s the second year on the trot the highlight of my year has been canned, and I’m sick of it. But it hasn’t stopped me dreaming about it and spending most of my waking hours thinking about it. Because that’s just what I do. And one of the things I’ve been contemplating is the TT class structure. I’m happy with the Superbike, Superstock and Supersport classes. And I’m happy to let the wheelbarrows (sidecars) have their turn. But the lightweight class doesn’t do it for me anymore… and if you let me, I’ll tell you why.
The idea behind the lightweight class was surely to give teams a cheaper route into Isle of Man TT racing. And riders an easier route into it; hanging onto a Superbike round the Mountain Course takes some doing. But that’s not really what the Lightweight TT class is any more. You take a 650cc twin (like a Kawasaki ER6 or a Suzuki SV650) and turn it into a race bike. A competitive Lightweight bike will cost you as much as a Superstock bike to build; and a lot more to keep on top of. If you have a look at any of the front running Lightweight machines, you’ll see what I mean. They’re like mini superbikes. It’s certainly not a cheap or easy way to go racing.
But I do like the idea of having a class of bikes that are a bit friendlier to manhandle round the TT course. So let’s not scrap the class completely. Let’s tweak it. Because nowadays, the bike market’s overflowing with middleweights that are trying their best to be sportsbikes. Bikes that would be perfect for a new and improved Lightweight TT class.
I’m talking about bikes like Aprilia RS 660s, Kawasaki Ninja 650s, Honda CBR650Rs, Suzuki SV650s and Yamaha R7s (ok I know they aren’t officially out yet, but it’s just an MT-07 really). With the exception of the Aprilia, they’ve all got similar amounts of power, they are all reasonably cheap, and are fairly bulletproof. The RS 660 is a bit faster, a bit more expensive and I can’t comment on its reliability.
So what is this new class then? Well I wouldn’t call it the Lightweight class anymore. I think we should rebrand it. Something like Superstock 700 ought to work. You see, if we call it a ‘Superstock’ class it stops the big budget teams having such a big advantage. You can still change the tyres, the exhaust, the bodywork, the suspension etc. to make the bike feel a bit ‘racier’. But you don’t have to spend thousands on engine tuning, bespoke swingarms and frame alterations just to be competitive.
It would turn the ‘Lightweight TT’ back into what it was meant to be in the first place. It would be a lower cost option, and it would be fairer. And that means the racing would be better. You’d also have a load more manufacturers in there, too. At the moment it’s mainly Kawasaki’s with a smattering of Suzuki’s… oh and the odd Paton S1-R if you’ve got a load of money or know how to do a special handshake. It’s lovely to see them Patons, they’re quality motorbikes, but it’s not really in the spirit of it, is it?
And the best thing about my plan is that the ‘Superstock’ rules are already written. Sort of. It wouldn’t take the brains of a Mastermind finalist to tweak them to suit a Superstock 700 class. They’re fairly simple anyway: no tuning or boring out of engines, the chassis’ got to remain standard, but you can change exhaust and suspension. Easy. There might be a bit of head-scratching when it comes to matching the power of the different models, but coming up with a solution surely isn’t beyond the wit of men. Perhaps a power cap would be solve the issue. If your bike makes more than 90bhp, you’re cheating and you’re out. And if you’re desperate to run an Aprilia, you might just have to restrict it; I can’t see that being too much of a hardship.
Who knows whether the new class will materialise? Not me. And with so many teams having invested so much into their current spec Lightweight racers, I imagine there would be some opposition if the Isle of Man TT organisers announced they were moving the goalposts. But I think it’s the way forward.
What do you think?