Dean Harrison’s One Target for 2024 Isle of Man TT

Dean Harrison heads to the 2024 Isle of Man TT after a less than straightforward start to his time with Honda, but with one clear goal

Dean Harrison, 2024 IOMTT, Honda Racing UK

When Andrea Dovizioso was challenging Marc Marquez for the MotoGP world title in 2017, he noted that he just felt like a normal guy who happened to be a MotoGP rider.

On the scale of ‘ordinary people who happen to be elite at a sport’, Dean Harrison might be the ultimate example.

The 2019 Senior TT winner and now a factory Honda rider, the first thing Harrison said to me, before we hit record, was, “Do you want a cup of tea?” I didn’t - I don’t like hot drinks - but it’s an example of the guy you’re dealing with.

We spoke a few hours after Race 1 at the Donington British Superbike round, just over a week before the first day of practice for the 2024 Isle of Man TT. 

Harrison’s weekend had been going okay until that point - “Ups and downs,” is how Harrison described it himself. He’d qualified 21st and finished Race 1 in 17th. 

“[It’s been] good in a way that we’re constantly learning with the bike all the time, but I'm not in a place yet where I feel like me and the bike can be at,” Harrison said. “I really think there’s much more to come time-wise, and I think it’s not just the bike, I think it’s also a bit of me that needs to adapt to things a little bit better.”

Harrison had made a high-profile move from the DAO Racing Kawasaki team to the Honda Racing UK squad over the winter to spearhead Honda’s road racing effort in 2024. The adaptation to the Honda had taken time, but was now complete, he said.

“I’m done [adapting] now. It wasn’t just the bike, it was the team and the bike, it was the whole package that was an adaptation. 

“But now I feel like I’ve settled in well, and I get along with everyone well, and we all want to keep going in the same direction. 

“I think it’d be nice to work together, like get together a little bit more and try and move the whole thing forward.”

Harrison’s prominence in road racing means that racing in BSB seems like it could be almost a distraction when it’s placed between the North West 200 and the Isle of Man TT. But Harrison assured that there’s no difference in approaching the Donington weekend to any other.

“I’m a massive believer in ‘what will be will be’. You just have to attack every weekend the same, take it all in your stride, [and] make the most of the time we have with the bike.”

Time with the bike, the Superbike-spec Honda CBR1000RR-R Fireblade in particular, was something that Harrison was missing in a road racing context after the 2024 North West 200, where Honda was forced to take only Superstock-spec machines as a result of logistical issues.

Despite only having Superstock machinery in Northern Ireland, Harrison had a strong week at the Triangle, and he left feeling positive.

“I think, as a week goes, it was really good, it was productive,” he said. “Obviously, we had a couple of little technical issues which we got through, and obviously we were only on the Superstock bike which made it a little different. 

“It was nice to be second in the Superstock race, so it proves we have potential in that.”

Harrison also went into detail about the difference between Superstock bikes and their Superbike counterparts, and how it’s not easy to call. It’s a debate which has become murkier in recent years because of the increasing performance of stock production bikes, highlighted by Peter Hickman’s absolute lap record of the TT Mountain Course and victory in the Senior TT at last year’s event on the Isle of Man on a Superstock-spec BMW M1000 RR.

“The saying is that you don’t need a Superbike, but a Superbike is the one that always wins the race,” Harrison said, reflecting on the North West 200, in which he finished third in the final Superbike race behind Glenn Irwin and Davey Todd, both on Superbike-spec bikes. 

“The problem you’ve got is everyone just looks at the top speed. But all the [stock] bikes now have got 220bhp, 210bhp. So, if you’ve got a Superbike that’s got 235bhp and it’s slightly better out the corner, but you’ve got 15bhp less but you’ve got their slipstream, you’ve got no air to move. So, therefore, you’re going to go quicker because you’re going through no air. 

“The Stocker is fast, it’ll do 200mph by itself, but there’s a lot of variance in there that gets missed, I think.”

Switching focus to Donington, Harrison asked, “You look here at a Superbike time and Superstock time, there’s hardly anything in it, so why bother having both classes?” He’s right: Davey Todd’s pole position time in the Superstock class at Donington was a 1:28.684, compared to Ryan Vickers’ 1:27.608 for pole in the Superbike class. Todd’s time would have put him ninth, ahead of Completely Motorbike Kawasaki’s Max Cook, on the grid for Superbike Race 1 at the Donington BSB.

“But one’s got electronics and the other one doesn’t, so you can’t cross-reference because they are that different,” Harrison countered. “Do you know what I mean? There’s a lot more to it than people think, in my head. Obviously, the Superbike is a step better, but that’s just what it is, really.”
Honda’s inventory limitations at the North West also extended outwards from the 1,000cc machines and to the Supersport class, which the team wasn’t able to contest at all. 

“It was just a shame we didn’t have all the bikes there because we could’ve learned a lot for the TT with the 600, for example,” Harrison admitted at Donington, where he’d been able to test the Honda CBR600RR during the race weekend. “[The 600 is] all good to go because we had a run out on that yesterday. I was quite happy with my pace, to be honest, in myself I feel good.”

Finally, looking ahead to the TT, Harrison’s goals are clear. “To win,” his simple answer to the simple question of what would make his fortnight in the Irish Sea a good one. “To win would be a good TT, wouldn’t it? To win one would be nice. Or a few, maybe. But, definitely, we’re going to be battling for podiums and battling for wins, really. So, that’s where we want to be.”

Images courtesy of Honda Racing UK.