Dunlop and record breaking Birchalls take victories at TT 2017.
What had seemed to be highly unlikely at 6 a.m. duly took place; the Supersport Race 1 and Sidecar Race 1 were completed; the later just as the weather began to close in and rain started to fall on the mountain section and some low land areas.
The aftermath of the heavy overnight rain and a suicidal tree at Ballig led to a delay of just over two hours 15 minutes. We were thankful that the organisers were able to drop the flag at 1.03 and 10s. Despite some sunshine and drying wind the riders were faced with damp patches at those places where trees have been allowed to cover the road with their foliage envelope; notably Ramsey Hairpin to Waterworks, Bishopscourt, Churchtown, the Nook and Governor’s Dip.
This year has so far seen role reversal from last year with Hutchy winning the Superbike Race yesterday and Michael Dunlop taking victory in the smaller capacity race today. The race gave Michael his 14th Isle of Man TT victory drawing him level with the late, great (greatest in my eyes) Mike Hailwood’s 14 TT wins when he won the 4-lap Monster Energy Supersport race by 13.2s from James Hillier.
It was a case of déjà vu as James Hillier led on corrected time at the first timing point at Glen Helen. His advantage over William Dunlop was only 0.4s with Michael Dunlop just 0.01s behind his brother. Gary Johnson, Dean Harrison and Peter Hickman completed the top six with Sunday’s Superbike TT winner Ian Hutchinson back in seventh.
Hillier led at Ballaugh Bridge by 0.2s on our watch, with William Dunlop and Gary Johnson tying for 3rd; Dean Harrison held 5th another 1.4s in arrears; with Hickman 6th; just 6.3s covered all six riders.
Michael took the lead going into Ramsey; but it was a tiny advantage of just 0.09s over Hillier as they tackled the tricky run up to Waterworks for the first time. William Dunlop was a further 1.5s back in third as Johnson, Harrison and Hickman held onto their top six positions.
Hillier had re-taken the lead by the time the riders swept over the tramlines at the Bungalow. An opening lap of 124.743mph gave him a slender 0.397s lead over Michael Dunlop, with Harrison (124.230mph) up to 3rd. William Dunlop dropped back to 4th with Johnson in 5th and Hutchinson moving up to 6th; a mere 9.6s covered the top six. Dan Kneen was top local in 8th, 10s ahead of Conor Cummins.
Michael Dunlop now opened the taps on his Yamaha and he was 1.8s clear of Hillier at Glen Helen with William Dunlop now up to 3rd after Harrison retired at Ballacraine with a broken gear lever. That promoted Johnson up to 4th, Hutchinson 5th and Hickman 6th. At Ballaugh, Hillier took top style marks for a high leap that he landed perfectly on the rear wheel. Dunlop scored low style marks; but he led by 2s on our timing.
At Ramsey Hairpin, the excitable Roy Moore revealed that Dunlop had eked out his advantage to 3.2s, with his elder brother William holding 3rd, 10s behind Hillier. Hickman had overhauled Hutchinson for fourth while Johnson was only 0.1s further behind in 6th.
At half race distance, and coming into the pits for fuel, Dunlop’s lead was down to 2.4s after a second lap speed of 126.015mph. It appeared that race was now a straight fight between him and Hillier with William Dunlop now a further 15.8s adrift in third. Hickman had closed to within 4.5s; Hutchinson remained in fifth. Dan Kneen was sixth coming into the pits but incurred the wrath of the powers that be and received a 60s penalty (to go with yesterday’s 30s penalty) for going down pit lane in excess of 90kmh, this cost him 7 places.
Jamie Coward’s good run came to an end when he retired while holding 8th place. Hillier was again rapid on the run to Glen Helen on the third lap, he had reduced Dunlop’s lead to 1.8s as he crossed the timing beam. Behind them William Dunlop had gained another second from Hickman.
Dunlop had an excellent run from Glen Helen to Ballaugh, where he had another nose first landing, but it mattered not because he had doubled his lead and by Ramsey, had increased it further still to 5.9s. As he continued to increase his advantage, the fight for the final podium position was intensifying. Thanks to a lap at 119.799mph Hickman had nosed 3.2s ahead of William Dunlop as they started their final lap.
The final 37.73 miles around the Mountain Course saw Dunlop finally pull clear and he eventually took the chequered flag by 13.2s. Hillier took his tenth TT podium in second with Hickman having another excellent ride; setting the fastest lap of the race at 126.848mph to secure his second podium place of the week.
William Dunlop had to settle for 4th with Ian Hutchinson an unusually distant fifth after dominating the class in both 2015 and 2016 – his run of 11 successive podium finishes ending. Johnson completed the top six ahead of Bruce Anstey. Kneen fought his way back up to eighth as Conor Cummins and James Cowton rounded out the top ten.
The results mean that Hutchinson and Hickman are now tied at the top of the Joey Dunlop TT Championship on 36 points, with Hillier only three points behind in third.
The battle for the TT Privateer’s Championship saw the honours today go to Craig Neve in 14th overall, one place ahead of local rider Andrew Dudgeon followed by Daley Mathison (16th) and Horst Saiger (17th). Newcomer Adam McLean had a great ride into 18th; breaking the 120mph barrier on his second a fourth laps; definitely a star in the making.
Saiger leads with 38 points from Sam West on 27 and Neve on 25.
Tom Weeden was reported to have had an accident at Brandywell and was taken by Airmed to Nobles Hospital where he received treatment for chest and back injuries; hopefully he will out in no time.
Monster Energy Supersport TT Race 1
- Michael Dunlop MD Yamaha 124.368mph
- James Hillier JG Speedfit Kawasaki 123.992mph
- Peter Hickman Trooper Beer Triumph 123.631mph
- William Dunlop Caffrey Yamaha 123.367mph
- Ian Hutchinson Mcams Yamaha 122.639mph
- Gary Johnson Reactive Parts Triumph 122.334mph
- Bruce Anstey Padgetts’ Honda 121.602mph
- Dan Kneen Jackson Honda 121.366mph
- Conor Cummins Padgetts’ Honda 120.958mph
- James Cowton McAdoo Kawasaki 120.680mph
Following the now obligatory waste of time whilst a load of people with too much money were taken for a lap in one of the multitude Subaru WRX STI cars that infect the island for the event it was time for the first Sidecar Race. After a perfect start to practice a big question mark now hung over Dave Molyneux after his very expensive and special race engine threw a tantrum seven miles into yesterday’s session when it was being run in. He and Slick Bass had burned the midnight (to 3 a.m. actually) oil putting an engine together; in order that he could race.
We were treated to a record breaking afternoon as the Birchall brothers gave us a master class; setting the best time in every sector for the first two of the three laps. They duly took a convincing win; setting a new outright lap record of 117.119mph on their way to taking their fifth TT victory. Joining in the record breaking was Estelle Leblond who raised her record lap for a female driver to 108.407mph on her second lap; a wonderful achievement.
The Birchalls’ winning margin over John Holden/Lee Cain was 25.6s with Dave Molyneux/Dan Sayle holding onto third as the weather closed in on the final lap. It was the Manxman’s 30th podium in his 50th TT start.
The Birchalls made their intentions clear from the outset and opened up a 3.4s lead over Holden/Cain through Glen Helen on the opening lap with Molyneux/Sayle a further second behind in third. The Founds brothers, Alan and Pete, with Jake Lowther and Jevan Walmsley in the respective chairs, were occupying fourth and fifth as Tim Reeves/Mark Wilkes held sixth.
At Ballaugh they led from Holden by 4.65s; Holden had increased his advantage over Molyneux to 3.65s. Founds, Founds and Reeves continued to fill the leader board. The pattern was now set and throughout the lap, the Birchalls extended their advantage. Their opening lap of 115.965mph gave them a 12s lead over Holden/Cain with Molyneux/Sayle holding station in 3rd. Founds/Lowther were only 1.6s behind in 4th but Reeves/Wilkes had relegated Founds/Walmsley to sixth, by 1.9s.
On lap two, it was clear the Birchalls were really piling on the pressure as their lead increased at each and every timing point and a new lap record was on the cards. They did not disappoint; they charged across the line at the end of the second lap with a new lap record of 117.119mph in their back pockets, the first ever 117mph+ lap by a sidecar.
At Ballaugh, New Zealanders Chris and Richard Lawrance drew gasps from the crowd as they came in too hot; hit the low wall on the bridge; had the sidecar wheel pawing the air and the outfit seemingly certain to flip. Somehow they saved it; put the outfit back on all three wheels and drove away to huge applause.
At the Grandstand Holden/Cain were almost 25s behind the flying Birchalls but were over nine seconds clear of Molyneux/Sayle on the watches and enjoying a close battle on the roads that may have involved some paint swapping at the Creg. Molyneux/Sayle were 7.6s ahead of Founds/Lowther; Reeves/Wilkes were 18.8s further back in 5th; Founds/Walmsley held a safe 6th.
With just one lap of the Mountain Course to go, the Birchalls were able to ride to their signals and with some drizzle falling on the Mountain, they eased the pace further and duly brought the IEG Racing machine home for another TT victory.
Their eventual winning margin over Holden/Cain was 25.6s and although Molyneux/Sayle came under extreme pressure from Founds/Lowther, largely due to Sayle having suffered damage to his ribs during the course of the race, they held on for yet another TT podium.
Reeves/Wilkes took fifth from Founds/Walmsley with Conrad Harrison/Andy Winkle, Tony Baker/Fiona Baker-Holden, Karl Bennett/Maxime Vasseur and Wayne Lockey/Mark Sayers completed the top ten.
Debbie Barron and Alun Thomas had what could have been a nasty accident at Ramsey Hairpin; thankfully all are unscathed. I expect that the area on the inside will now become restricted.
Sure Sidecar Race 1
- Ben Birchall/Tom Birchall LCR Honda 116.027mph
- John Holden/Lee Cain Silicone Honda 115.185mph
- Dave Molyneux/Dan Sayle BMR Yamaha 114.579mph
- Alan Founds/Jake Lowther Gray Yamaha 114.397mph
- Tim Reeves/Mark Wilkes Klaffi Honda 113.949mph
- Peter Founds/Jevan Walmsley Trustland Suzuki 113.150mph