The organisers of the Isle of Man TT have revealed the traditional opening practice session has been axed for the 2011 event, which will mark the 100th anniversary of the 37.73-mile Mountain course.
A spokesman for the Isle of Man Government's Department of Economic Development, promoters of the TT, said the decision to cut the opening, untimed practice session from the first Saturday of the usually fortnight-ling TT came after discussions with teams and riders.
The TT Races first took place in 1907, but the course was changed to incorporate the Island's mountain region, Snaefell, in 1911 and, apart from one or two small modifications, teams and riders will be competing on that same course 100 years later.
Isle of Man Tourism political member Geoff Corkish said:
“We have listened to comments from a number of teams and riders, both from the top of the grid as well as further down the field, as well as sponsors and other commercial partners and the overwhelming feedback is that we need to help them to reduce their costs during the tough economic climate.”
“We have therefore decided to remove the first practice to reduce the time that they spend on the Island, whilst maintaining arrangements within the existing road closure schedule to maintain the amount of track time available for qualification.”
The first practice had been provisionally scheduled for May 28, but the decision to drop the session means the TT programme will now begin with a timed qualifying session on the evening of May 30. Qualifying for both Sidecar and Solo machines will take place every evening that week.
Whilst dropping the session means there will be no action on the Mountain course on what has been the traditional opening weekend, race fans will still be able to enjoy the excitement of road racing on the Isle of Man on May 27 and 28 at the Southern 100 Club's pre-TT Classic Race meeting, featuring a number of TT riders racing in a mass start event on the famous Billown Circuit in the south of the Island.
Apart from the axed practice session, the 2011 calendar will feature broadly the same race programme as the previous seven years, a Superbike race and the first Sidecar race on June 4, the Supersport race 1 and the Superstock race on June 6, the second Sidecar and second Supersport races on June 8 and the blue riband Senior TT on June 10.
For the third consecutive year, electric bikes will also compete in the TT, with the TT Zero Race scheduled to take place on June 8. The Isle of Man Government is again offering a £10,000 prize to the first team to record a 100mph lap around the course. The speed was first recorded on a conventional machine in 1957 and has not yet been achieved by an electric bike, although the American team MotoCzysz from Portland, Oregon clocked an average lap speed of 96.82mph in the 2010 TT Zero Race.