The most challenging event in the motorcycle racing calendar returns this week, after a year long break, as a record entry of 625 riders take part in the Isle of Man TT festival.

The island is bracing itself for the expected invasion of 40,000 fans, who are returning after the disappointment of last year's cancellation due to the foot-and-mouth crisis, to soak up the thrills and action around the demanding 37.73mile Mountain Course as the week-long eight-race programme unfolds.

The recent history of the TT has been the story of the Dunlop family, and Robert, the younger brother of the late Joey, aims to write yet another chapter in what is certain to be a poignant event for him.

Dunlop Jr rides a Honda RS125R in Monday's four-lap Ultra-lightweight race, aiming to take a fifth victory in that category, and a sixth in total, but memories of Joey will be on his mind each time he laps the circuit - the 26th milestone has been named after Joey Dunlop, a fitting, permanent commemoration of his unparalleled winning record on the Island.

Before that race, however, Honda, the most successful manufacturer since their arrival on the scene back in 1959, will be hoping to have added to their impressive 113 race winning pedigree as they field a strong two-rider works supported team in the opening TT Formula One race, on Saturday afternoon.

John McGuinness, twice a winner on the Island, riding the 954 Fireblade that took him to victory in last year's Macau Grand Prix, is raring to go.

"I'm really pumped up and ready to go for it - the bike is superb, and I am keen to start the week as I intend to continue, with a victory," he said, "For me, racing the TT is the ultimate challenge. It is so different. The corners are varied, there is the climb up the Mountain, but, while it is financially rewarding, no-one forces you to go there. I first went to the island as a schoolboy, with my dad, to watch the races, and from then on, I had the ambition to ride and win here."

Ulsterman Adrian Archibald, still chasing maiden TT glory joins McGuinness in riding a Fireblade and has high promise, having taken solid results on the island and in the traditional 'warm-up' event the NorthWest 200 races.

Ranged against the Honda duo in that six lap TTF1 race are Jim Moodie, seven times a winner, and Iain Duffus, riding Yamahas, and Yorkshireman David Jefferies, twice in as many years a triple winner on the Island, and Ian Lougher, riding Suzukis.

Sidecar racing is also an important part of the TT legend, and again this year, there are two three-lap races, on Saturday and Wednesday, with Manx crew Dave Molyneux and Colin Hardman. They start as favourites in their Honda CBR600 powered outfit, with Molyneux, intent on adding to his seven race victories, but, he expects under intense pressure from eight times winner Rob Fisher, passengered by Rick Long.

"I've been in racing all of my life and just enjoy riding the TT," Molyneux said, "It is a way of life, I build my own chassis, and also supply several of my race rivals, including Fisher. The secret of doing well on the island is to know the course like the back of you hand - obviously, by within living just a couple of minutes of the course, I can do that without any problems. Sidecar racing is all about experience."

McGuinness continues his quest to dominate the TT as he rides in Monday's two events, riding Honda in the Lightweight 400 race, which is combined with the Ultra-lightweight race, then, in the afternoon, the Lancastrian races a Fireblade in the Production 1000TT. Wednesday's Junior TT provides McGuinness with the opportunity to avenge his NorthWest 200 defeat by Ian Lougher.

"Lougher is riding better now that ever and will be tough to beat, but really, this race is my main priority," he said, "It is the one that I am determined to win.

"Friday's 600 Production race is an extra one on the card, and will be interesting to say the least, but it gets me in the groove for the Senior TT, which is always regarded as the most prestigious in the Festival. I know that my Fireblade is well on the pace and can win."

Practice has been held between last Saturday [25 May] and today [Friday], with the racing programme due to kick off tomorrow with the TT Formula One event.

The full race programme is as follows:

Saturday 1 June
14.00 TT Formula One 6 laps
17.00 Sidecar 'A' 3 laps

Monday 3 June
10.45 Lightweight 400/Ultra-lightweight 125 4 laps
13.15 Production 1000TT 3 laps

Wednesday 5 June
10.45 Junior 600/250TT 4 laps
13.15 Sidecar 'B' 3 laps

Friday 7 June
10.45 Production 600TT 3 laps
13.15 Senior TT 6 laps



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