John McGuinness heads the entry for the 99th annual running of the Isle of Man TT races and having already warmed up with a high speed lap of the demanding 37.73 mile Mountain Course during practice, the Lancastrian is brimming with confidence.
The winner of eight races on this unique public roads course, that takes the action on a round trip of the picturesque Island, starting and finishing in Douglas, and charging through towns and village, open countryside and then high over Snaefell Mountain, McGuinness has factory backed HM Plant Honda machines as he bids for glory in all four solo races.
On three wheels, local favourite Dave Molyneux, a record eleven times sidecar race winner, passengered by Craig Hallam, also has the benefit of Honda power as he bids for another winning double in the two events for the 'chairs', on Monday and Wednesday, that are a vital part of the TT tradition.
The racing programme begins with the TT Superbike race, decided over six laps, on Saturday, with McGuinness firmly focussed on achieving an 'action-replay' of his success of last year, in both that and the 'blue-riband' Senior race the following Friday.
He has already lapped the course at an average speed of 125mph during his preparations, and is feeling confident: "I've won the previous three big races here, and have the top package to race with and with Honda I am feeling relaxed and ready to race.
"I know that I have a target on my back for the others, and it is good to see more young riders challenging, but I am not feeling any stress. Everything is shaping up to be very good," added McGuinness who holds the outright record, with a lap of 127.68mph, though he admits speed is not everything.
"The important thing is to be smooth and consistent, get going and enjoy, riding within your limits, keeping safety margins that do not push you over the edge. The event is just so different, totally unique."
Ian Lougher, seven times a winner, could pose problems for McGuinness. He is riding a similar Honda CBR1000, but in the colour of British Superbike team Stobart Motorsport, as he bids for his first 'big-bike' win on the Island. "For some reason, success in these races has always eluded me for one reason or another, but this year I feel I have the ammunition to go out there and win," he said after consistently fast lapping, at an average of 123mph, in early practice.
Cameron Donald and Martin Finnegan adds to the Honda challenge, but they are all well aware of the threat posed by Guy Martin, keen to taste maiden TT glory, and looking strong on the AIM Racing Yamaha R1, while New Zealander Bruce Anstey, riding the TAS Suzuki GSX-R1000, and Ian Hutchinson, aboard the Kawasaki ZX-10R cannot be ruled out.
Lougher, who admits: "I've always been referred to as a small-bike rider" expects to add to his collection of victories with a repeat of last year's triumph in the Junior race for Supersport 600 machines. He will be riding a Honda CBR 600R, in Blackhorse Finance colours, in Wednesday's four lap race, as he duels with McGuinness, aboard the official Honda CBR 600R entered machine, with both Guy, riding Yamaha, Hutchinson aboard the McAdoo Kawasaki and Jason Griffiths on a Yamaha certain to be on the pace.
Griffiths, eleven times a podium finisher on the Island, but so far still chasing that elusive first TT victory, could achieve that ambition in Monday's four lap Superstock race he has adopted the Island as his home and is keen to impress the locals aboard the Yamaha R1, and has topped 123mph in practice already. Martin is hot on the charge, but McGuinness is running with them aboard his Fireblade.
"I have a chance to match the record of four wins a week held by Philip McCallen that would really be something special," said McGuinness, but nothing comes easy in this event, with top riders including Anstey, riding Suzuki, and Kawasaki's Hutchinson equally hungry for glory.
The sidecar races are expected to fall to Molyneux. Last year he took his eleventh win in style, trimming an astonishing 30 seconds off his own lap record and already he is lapping at almost 115mph, but with Manx duo Nick Crowe and Darren Hope expected to push him hard ironically, they are riding a sidecar outfit built and prepared by Molyneux.
For World champion Klaus Klaffenbock and Christian Parzer are back for more aboard their LCR Honda, but the real test for Molyneux and Crowe is expected to be provided by Gary Bryan/Colin Hardman and Phil Dongworth/Stuart Castles aboard Yamaha powered machines.
The timetable for TT Race Week is:
Saturday 3rd June
13:00 TT Superbike Race (6 laps)
Monday 5th June
10:45 TT Superstock Race (4 laps)
13:15 Sidecar TT Race A (3 laps)
Wednesday 7th June
10:45 Supersport Junior TT Race (4 laps)
13:15 Sidecar TT Race B (3 laps)
Friday 9th June
10:45 Senior TT Race (6 laps)
14:00 Lap of Honour and Classic Parade
Source: Honda Motor Company, Ltd - Motor Sports Division