This year will also feature a change of format and both will now be contested over two 8-lap legs, rather than a solitary 12-lap affair, with the winner being declared on points over the two legs.
The event also has a new sponsor with Isle of Man based Motorsport Merchandise taking the title sponsorship. Motorsport Merchandise are the official licensed suppliers of TT clothing and have also been providing branded clothing to the Southern 100 and Manx Grand Prix for many years. The event will also be filmed by North One as part of the recent TV production and distribution deal with the footage being used for the TT DVD series and being shown as part of the ITV coverage.
Last year’s inaugural race saw one of the largest ever crowds at the Billown Circuit that has been home to the popular Southern 100 meeting for over 50 years. That figure is set to be even higher in 2009 with the increased race schedule and a superb line up of riders that sees 40 riders entered for the 250cc race and 35 in the 125cc class.
The Motorsport Merchandise Lightweight TT has a superb line up with last year’s winner Ian Lougher, returning on the Barnes Honda. His challengers are likely to include William and Michael Dunlop and Chris Palmer whilst other TT stars in action include Ian Armstrong, circuit newcomer Olie Linsdell, TT Rider Liaison Officer John Barton, Mark Buckley, Paul Shoesmith, Paul Owen and Phil Harvey.
Ireland is well represented with Davy Morgan, John Burrows, Andrew Neill, Barry Davidson, Samuel Dunlop, Nigel Moore and the returning Darren Burns, all of whom are expected to feature in the top 10 whilst hopes of a Manx winner rest on the shoulders of Daniel Sayle and Tony Cawte. Apart from Linsdell, other newcomers to keep an eye on include Ivan Lintin, Graham Wilson, Ryan Kneen, Emlyn Hughes and MCN road tester and British Championship front runner Bruce Dunn.
National competitors Rob Knight, Colin Wilcock, Carl Salvage and Dave Moffitt are again in the line up and there are a number of seasoned 250cc regulars in the field notably Peter Wakefield, Kevin Strowger, Chris McGahan, Tom Snow and Dean Martin.
It’s a similar story in the Motorsport Merchandise Ultra Lightweight class where Lougher, Palmer and the Dunlops lead the way although there is also the notable return of leading short circuit star James Ford, 4th last year, to spice things up. Arguably the biggest attraction though will be the appearance of Dan Sayle on a 125cc KTM. This will be, the only chance, other than the British MotoGP, for race fans to see the little Austrian machine on a circuit in the British Isles. Sayle, who will again partner Dave Molyneux in the two Sure Sidecar TT Races on the Mountain Course, took second place 12 months ago and has a great chance of claiming a solo TT win.
Buckley, Davidson, Neill, Burns, Cawte, Moore, Harvey, Knight, Wakefield and McGahan again go in this one whilst Roy Richardson and Jon Vincent are additional entries. Linsdell, Lintin, Dunn, Wilson, Hughes and Kneen are again the most prominent newcomers and they are joined by Kieran Hankin, Doug Snow, Darren Gilpin, Rob and Jamie Hodson and overseas debuts from Martin Loicht and Pascal Bras.
Hon Martyn Quayle, MHK, Minister for Tourism and Leisure, commented:
“The Billown TT is clearly going from strength to strength and we owe a debt of gratitude to the Southern 100 club for helping to create and run such a strong event and maintaining the long history of two stroke racing on the Island.”