There are a host of star TT riders lining up to battle for honours when the ‘Southern 100’ returns to the Billown circuit.
The Southern 100 races, now sponsored by the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, started back in 1955 with classes for 250, 350 and 500cc capacity machine. The races got their name from the fact the 500cc bikes were expected to complete 24 laps of the 4.25-mile course – in excess of 100 miles.
Today the meeting accommodates a full range of road racing classes from 125cc two-strokes up to 1100cc senior race bikes as well as sidecars. With 11 races in two days it’s a packed schedule and one that’s attracted the highest level of support for many years.
Well-known names from the road-racing world this year include Ryan Farquhar, dominant in the Duke Road Race Rankings and a 14-time winner at the Southern. With a win and two podiums at June’s Isle of Man TT Farquhar will certainly be one of the leading contenders for the top step of the Southern 100 podium.
Ryan’s almost single-handed championing of the 650cc ‘Supertwin’ class has paid off not only in the bikes being accepted by an ever-increasing number of road race meetings, but also with the inaugural Lightweight TT prize from this year’s TT meeting.
Also campaigning in the twins will be Farquhar’s protégé and team mate Jamie Hamilton. Although only 21 Hamilton has shown real promise on the real road circuits.
More experienced campaigners confirmed for this year’s meeting include Michael and William Dunlop. The Ballymoney men are both previous winners with William having racked up an impressive 10 wins, most of which have come in the 125 and 250 classes. With improving times on the Superbike and Supersport machines, he’ll be looking to make his mark at this year’s event.
Michael will be well remembered by fans of the races for his incredible 0.12 second win from Guy Martin in the opening races of the 2011 meeting which also included a stunning last lap manoeuvre at Stadium to pass the Lincolnshire man.
Lincolnshire’s most famous son will also be back to renew that rivalry in the bigger bike classes and no doubt will be cheered on by the usual legions of sideburn-wearing fans on the hedges around the course.
He’ll be campaigning the Tyco Suzuki machines with his teammate Conor Cummins who has now fully recovered following his frustrating injury sustained just before TT. The Ramsey man will be keen to put the disappointment of missing this year’s TT races behind him and show the Isle of Man what he can do on the factory supported Suzuki.
Castletown’s adopted son Chris Palmer had a good TT fortnight with wins in both the Pre- and Post-TT races held on the Billown circuit. The ten-time winner at the Southern will be looking to apply home advantage this year.
Other top names in the solo classes include previous winner Roy Richardson and Ian Lougher, who currently tops the overall Southern 100 leader board with 32 wins, one more than Joey Dunlop.
In the sidecars the Birchall brothers, fresh from two podium places at the TT, will be making their Southern 100 debut looking to build on where they left off on the Mountain Course.
They’ll face stiff competition in the form of Roy Hanks, Ian Bell and Greg Lambert all very experienced on the Billown circuit’s twists and turns.
Practices for this year’s event start on the 9th of July with racing on Wednesday 11th and Thursday 12th.
Manx Radio will be providing full commentary on all races and this year it will be also available to a much wider audience via the manxradiott365.com website.
The 2012 Steam Packet Southern 100 International Road Races get underway on Monday evening 9th July with practicing and races on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday