A stellar line up has entered the Okells Brewery 350cc Race at this year's Classic TT presented by Bennetts and with the riders and machines, arguably, more evenly matched than any other race, it could prove to be the closest of the festival. The race, which was oversubscribed with a number of high quality entries, is scheduled to take place on Bank Holiday Monday 31st August.
Lee Johnston, last year's race winner heads the entry list with the Northern Irishman having romped to victory in record breaking style 12 months ago. The 26-year old shattered the lap and race records and returns on the Black Eagle Racing 350cc MV Agusta and few would bet against him serving up a repeat performance.
As usual, he'll start at number 13 and will head down Glencrutchery Road ten seconds behind his teammate Dean Harrison who could well prove to be his closest rival. The Bradford rider missed last year's race but he has shown in the past his aptitude for anything with two wheels and won the 2013 Formula Classic Race.
Honda-mounted riders form the bulk of the entry and a number of them will provide Johnston and Harrison with some stiff opposition, none more so than the Davies Motorsport pairing of William Dunlop (6) and Alan Oversby (4), the latter having taken a good runners-up spot to Johnston twelve months ago.
Michael Rutter (Ripley Land Racing) makes his debut in the class and gives the Japanese manufacturer another great chance of victory. Other contenders include Olie Linsdell (Flitwick Motorcycles/SMV Engineering), James Hillier and Alex Sinclair (CSC Racing), Jamie Coward (Ted Woof Racing) and Andy Lawson (Easy Air Conditioning). Chris McGahan, Nigel Moore, Phil McGurk, Paul Coward, Pete Boast and Chris Petty give Honda further strength in depth.
Like the 500cc class, Norton will be well to the fore with the Team Molnar Manx pairing of Cameron Donald (number eight) and Dan Cooper (number five) expected to be running at the head of the field while Keith Amor will have strong expectations on Tony Dunnell's machine, the Scot leading the field away at number one. Wattie Brown, Nick Jefferies and Gavin Lupton are just three more fancied Norton runners.
The father and son combination of Bill and Chris Swallow are likely to be in the mix on their respective Ripley Land Racing AJS and Fawcett Aermacchi machines as will Mark Herbertson on another AJS whilst the consistent Doug Snow is again on the entry list with his trusty 340cc Ducati.
Meanwhile, there are no less than 15 250cc machines in the field and all will be aiming to win the Phil Read Trophy awarded to the class winner. The T20 Suzuki's are the choice of many including Adrian Harrison, Tom Jackson, Jeff Ward, Maria Costello, Billy Cummins, Andy Wilson and Alan Bud Jackson but the Yamahas of Chris Moore and Dave Edwards and Pete Symes' Kawasaki will ensure they don't have it all their own way.