If you thought last year's Isle of Man TT Races were special, then the word from the organisers of this year's event is quite simple - you ain't seen nothing yet! From World Champions to British Champions, British Superbike riders to American Superbike riders and from European stars to some of real road racing's finest, this year's entry list has it all and will serve up a treat, arguably the best quality of talent ever to have been assembled on the Island.
Heading the formidable entry list is the current outright lap record holder and eight-time winner John McGuinness. Having taken three of the last four Superbike races, the Morecambe rider has been snapped up by the official HM Plant Honda team and he will start as favourite in all four of the solo races. However, there's a long queue of riders eager to knock him off his pedestal.
Honda has a strong presence with Ian Lougher riding for the returning Paul Bird-run Stobart Honda team, the second of three BSB teams competing at this year's event whilst one of the bright young stars, Martin Finnegan, lines up for the Austrian Klaffi Honda squad, one of the leading lights in World Superbike. Japan's Jun Maeda is a fourth Honda rider capable of glory and having excelled last year, much is expected of the Kyoto man.
Yamaha also have three riders capable of winning with young sensation Guy Martin replacing McGuinness at AIM Racing - few will be surprised if a first TT win comes the way of the exuberant Lincolnshire rider this June. Two-time Senior race winner Adrian Archibald has switched to Team Racing and having been on lap record pace last year, the Ballymoney ace is a definite contender for honours. Ramsey based Jason Griffiths completes the trio and the consistent Welshman is sure to feature in each and every race. Meanwhile, Raymond Porter is a dark horse for honours and having stepped on the podium in the Junior race of 2005, the Lifford man could well get in amongst the 'works' Yamaha riders.
The all conquering TAS Suzuki squad are back for more with Kiwi rider Bruce Anstey being joined by Ryan Farquhar and with six wins between them already, there's a great chance that this tally could increase. Meanwhile, the fourth of the Japanese manufacturers, Kawasaki, are represented by the welcome return of McAdoo Racing with another of the young stars, Ian Hutchinson, on riding duties. In addition, the Hawk Kawasaki British Superbike squad have sensationally become the third team from the country's premier series to enter the TT fray with team principal Stuart Hicken, himself a former Manx Grand Prix rider, signing experienced TT rider Carl Rennie.
As well as the works boys, there's a whole host of privateers eager to prove themselves with the impressive Uel Duncan Racing squad securing the services of two of the stars of 2005, Cameron Donald and Les Shand. With machinery to match their talent, the pairing have the potential to mix it with the factory stars and they are backed up by other leading lights Mark Parrett, Rob Frost, Ian Armstrong, Dean Silvester, David Bell, James McBride, Ian Pattinson, Dan Stewart, Phil Stewart, Paul Owen and Kevin Mawdsley.
Both Northern and Southern Ireland have traditionally proved to be comparable to a conveyor belt as they continue to produce some of real road racing's finest and the likes of Seamus Greene, Davy Morgan, Ken Doherty, John Donnan, Keith Stewart, John Burrows and Victor Gilmore are all capable of lapping in excess of 120mph.
The locals will have plenty to cheer about as well with the fastest ever Manxman, Paul Hunt, leading the charge whilst there is strength in depth with Chris Heath, Gary Carswell, Nigel Beattie, John Barton, Paul Duckett, Derran Slous and David Madsen-Mygdal. The Island also has one of the most interesting entries with Chris Palmer competing on a factory MV Agusta, the Italian giant making a welcome return.
As well as entries from the British Isles, the rest of the world are represented by, amongst others, the fastest American rider ever, Thomas Montano, Italian Stefano Bonetti, Belgian Michael Weynand, New Zealand riders Daniel Jansen and Paul Dobbs and Germans Dirk Kaletsch, Thomas Schonfelder and Manfred Vogl.
2005 also saw an influx of newcomers pitting their wits against the Mountain Course for the first time and this trend will continue with an impressive array of new talent travelling over to the Island. Mark Miller and Jeremy Toye are two of the leading riders in American Superbike racing and the duo have excelled on the roads of Macau in the past, with Miller stepping onto the podium, having only been beaten by TT greats David Jefferies and Michael Rutter.
Italian rider Angelo Conti is a former European Supersport Champion who has also scored top ten results in the World Championship class whilst the name of Dunlop is sure to create intrigue and stir 'memories from years gone by. Twenty-year-old William has already made a name for himself in his own right and his debut is one of the most eagerly awaited and anticipated for many years.
Scottish rider Mark Buckley has been taken under the wing of the best teacher of them all, Ian Lougher, and is part of the Black Horse Finance team whilst Englishman James Edmeades represents the youngsters and at just 22 years old, the current British Superstock rider has a bright future in front of him. Likewise, Conor Cummins who at 19 will not only be the youngest rider at this year's event but also one of the youngest ever to compete on the Mountain Course. The progress of the Ramsey rider will be eagerly noted.
And that's just the solos! The F2 sidecars see an equally impressive line-up, if not better, with World, European and British Champions on the grid.
Local hero Dave Molyneux is the man they all have to beat and such is the dominance of the Regaby driver, it will take something special to do that. Moly has taken 11 wins and 18 podiums and having moved the outright lap record up to a staggering 116.04mph, surely no one can stop the most successful driver ever. He is reunited with Craig Hallam and having already taken wins in 1999 and 2003, it's a formidable partnership that will get the races underway at number 1.
Fellow Manxmen Nick Crowe and Darren Hope will be trying their utmost to spoil the party and the duo have been a picture of consistency in the last three years, taking 1 win and 6 podiums in the last six races. They are also the second fastest pairing ever and will ensure the official HM Plant Honda outfit of Moly doesn't have it all his own way.
The third of the current 'Big Three' is Steve Norbury and the Castleford driver will be gunning for a first ever victory. Denied in 2005, he already has seven podiums to his name and with Scott Parnell in the chair, he is sure to add to that this time around. Fellow Yorkshireman Simon Neary was superb in 2005 becoming only the sixth driver to lap in excess of 110mph and having made the breakthrough, the youngster is well placed to step onto the podium for the first time.
2001 World Sidecar Champions Klaus Klaffenbock and Christian Parzer will be back for their third attempt and having finished seventh in 2005, the duo will be aiming for a first ever podium on their all new LCR outfit, one of only two in the world. The second LCR will also be at the TT in the hands of the returning Andy Laidlow and Patrick Farrance who themselves have been chasing World Championship glory. They finished 2nd overall in 2003, their last appearance, and are sure to be pushing for top five positions.
Another World Championship refugee is Tom Hanks who last drove on the Island back in 1999. An overall winner in 1997, and still the 9th fastest driver ever, Hanks will have Phil Biggs in the chair, and adds pure quality to the line-up. Meanwhile, Tom's Uncle, Roy, returns for an amazing 40th successive year of competition, again partnered by fellow veteran Dave Wells.
The supporting cast, like the solos, is stronger than ever with Ben Dixon, Phil Dongworth, Gary Bryan, John Holden, Tony Baker, Allan Schofield, Greg Lambert, Roger Stockton, Nigel Connole, the evergreen Bill Currie, Kenny Howles, Mick Harvey and Conrad Harrison all challenging for top ten positions, at least.
The reigning British Champion, Tony Elmer, will be back for his third attempt and he's been getting quicker as his knowledge increases so expect to see the Leeds driver higher up the results this year. Glyn Jones, Brian Kelly, Neil Kelly and Alan Langton add to the Manx effort whilst Dylan Lynch, the reigning Irish champion makes his debut, as does leading American driver Doug Dano.
The final word was left to David Cretney, Chairman of the TT Coordinating Committee and Minister for Tourism and Leisure on the Isle of Man:
"We have seen an amazing transformation over the past two years with this event, and the 2006 TT looks like being one of the best ever thanks to the hard work of a lot of people. The entry is the strongest I can remember is all my years of following the event and this should provide the fans with an amazing spectacle of close and exciting racing. One of the biggest changes is the support from the manufactures to such a degree, plus the involvement of other large teams from World Superbike, British Superbike and Irish Road Racing. The level has been raised significantly, which can only be a good thing, and makes our event stand out from others, with an amazing cross section of talented riders and quality machinery. Personally I can't wait for it all to start."
So, the message is clear and simple - between the 27th May and the 10th June there's only one place to be, and that's at the Isle of Man TT Races.