Two of the finest Classic TT bikes remain unclaimed only a couple of weeks before practice for the 2017 event starts.
The machines are the brace of 1100cc Harris-Yamahas built by Winfield Racing, which regularly win the Phillip Island Classic in Australia, and one of which finished second in last year’s Superbike Classic TT.
Michael Rutter, who was runner-up in the Island in 2016 at 122.521mph, has elected to ride the 1200cc Red Fox Grinta Ducati this time around. The problem for Winfield chief Roger Winfield is that there’s a shortage of riders capable of handling the big-bruiser Yams at podium speeds: it’s not a job for apprentices or tea-makers.
The motors are air-cooled to make them eligible for the Australian races, where new-fangled liquid cooling is banned. In theory that puts the bikes at a disadvantage to the Suzuki XR69s in the Isle of Man. But these are still 170bhp engines, with a Nova six-speed gearbox and a 170mph potential down the Sulby Straight.
Apparently the lines to Classic TT chief Paul Phillips and Roger Winfield got a bit frantic when BSN revealed recently that the team’s Senior Classic-winning Paton was still unclaimed, a ride now filled by Josh Brookes.
Winfield’s plan now is to take the Harris-Yams to the Island anyway. “If nothing else, we can put them on show,” he says. “But if someone had a mechanical disaster…”
He could take heart from the experience of fellow team owner Ian Garbutt, over at Ripley Land Racing. In 2014 Michael Rutter took on the team’s 500cc Seeley G50 as late as the Wednesday of practice week, but now holds the classic single-cylinder lap record on the bike at 109.102mph.
Relationships can develop from the most unpromising circumstances.