The interval between the Sidecar 2 and Senior TT races gave the large crowds another opportunity to watch John McGuinness complete a rapid demonstration lap on the Norton and think what might have been.
When the flag dropped on what the late Peter Kneale referred to as the “blue riband” race we were treated to one of the greatest races in the TT’s long illustrious history; perhaps it did not quite match the animosity fuelled duel of 1992, or the theatre of 1967; nor with as many contenders as the great Senior race of 2015. It was nonetheless compelling viewing and the outcome was in doubt until the final second as Peter Hickman won an unforgettable PokerStars Senior TT race at the Isle of Man TT races. The spectacle is unmatched in sport; as the finest and bravest riders of their generation battle the world’s oldest, toughest and most satisfying course in their quest for glory. It required Hickman to set a scarcely believable new outright lap record of 135.452mph on the final lap to defeat Dean Harrison by just two seconds.
Harrison had led the race for five and a half of the six laps but Hickman reeled him on the sixth lap and, having been quicker over the Mountain all race, he turned a 3.7s deficit at Glen Helen into a lead of 0.8s at the Bungalow and he smashed the race record by 48.064s to take his second win. Harrison took second with local star Conor Cummins rounding off a successful week with third place.
After the race Hickman paid respect to Harrison and revealed that he had targeted the Mountain section of the Course as an opportunity to make up time;
“I knew that Dean was going to be fast but I’d always been strong on the Mountain section throughout the week. It’s a bit like a short circuit and I came into my own on it. I thought it if I was within five or six seconds on the last lap I could have a go over the Mountain.”
On the track, Harrison led Hickman by 1.2s through Glen Helen on the opening lap with Dunlop a further second back in third with Hillier 2.5s behind the 18 times winner. Cummins and David Johnson completed the top six. Harrison was rapid in the lowland sections; he led by 1.5s at Ballaugh; where Cummins had eased Dunlop out of third by 0.5s; perhaps changes made by the Tyco team to Michael’s BMW had gone the wrong way.
Cummins was first on the road at the Gooseneck and was his normal immaculate self; bang on line and fast, very fast. A very rapid Dean Harrison was next, he was clearly trying as hard as he could skirting the bank on the exit to the unnamed corner below the Gooseneck. His faith in the front end of his machine was total as heeled into Gooseneck whilst still hard on the brakes. Rutter was next to power away from us, meaning that Hillier was out; it transpired that his race had ended at Westwood; just beyond the 13th milestone. On our watch Harrison’s lead was2.2s from Hillier; whose machine was something to behold as its acceleration up the hill was noticeably better than that of any other. Dunlop remained in third but was some 8.5s behind Hickman and in turn 1.3s ahead of Cummins. Davo Johnson and Josh Brookes completed our unofficial leader board.
Cummins was first to complete the lap; setting his best standing start speed of 131.754mph. Harrison was riding superbly and it was he who led with a lap of 133.678mph. However, Hickman was only 1.4s behind at 133.492mph. It appeared that Dunlop’s challenge for victory was not going to succeed; he dropped time on every sector and he was 12.9 seconds down on Hickman despite lapping at 131.810mph. Cummins, David Johnson and Josh Brookes completed the top six; however Johnson pulled into the pits to retire promoting namesake Gary Johnson into sixth.
Leading privateer Sam West was close to his maiden 130mph lap in eighth (129.716mph) with newcomer Davey Todd performing superbly in tenth (128.379mph).
At Glen Helen on lap two and Harrison had edged a little further away from Hickman to lead by 3.5s. Cummins was third, 0.5s ahead of Dunlop. Brookes was up to fifth and West now a superb sixth and Todd a stunning eighth.
Harrison led by 5.5s at Ballaugh; where Cummins had increased his advantage over Dunlop to 3.2s. Hickman cut 1s form the lead on the run to Gooseneck from Ballaugh and Dunlop held station with Cummins. Harrison came in for his first pit stop at the end of lap two having lapped at 133.704mph. Hickman was just 0.004s slower at 133.703mph. Cummins had lapped at 132.361mpg to close the lap 7.7s ahead of Dunlop.
Dunlop had the fastest stop; but it was only by fractions from Harrison and Hickman; the big loser was Cummins who lost over 7s to his main rivals. It was estimated that Harrison led by 2.5s as the duo left pit lane. At Glen Helen for the third time, Harrison’s lead had been increased to 4.8s and the duo were over half a minute clear of Cummins who pit stop had wiped out his hard won Harrison’s lead at Ballaugh was 5.49s; but he was rapid on the bumpy testing sections into Ramsey where he led by 8.2s. Hickman was again quicker over the Mountain; the polar opposite of the first section to Glen Helen. As they started lap four, the difference between the two was back down to 5.8s. Cummins was looking more comfortable in third with Dunlop now 13.6s behind in fourth as Brookes and West held onto fifth and sixth.
At Glen Helen on lap four, Harrison’s lead over Hickman was 5.4s; Cummins was 38s down on Hickman but had pulled out 15.8s advantage over Dunlop. At Ballaugh the lead was 6s and at Gooseneck it was 6.1s as blasted away towards Joey’s. Hickman again showed his strength over the Mountain by reducing the deficit at the Bungalow to 4.4s. He was also stunningly fast down the mountain and consequently set a new outright lap record of 134.456mph on his way into the second pit stop, the gap now just 1.402s. Harrison lapped at 133.871mph to leave his race average at 131.910mph. The order behind stayed constant as Cummins (132.222mph) pulled further away from Dunlop with Brookes looking comfortable in fifth but Gary Johnson had snatched sixth from West by 1s.
The second pit stop saw Harrison’s team send him out with an increased lead of 4.7s with 75.466 miles of high speed duelling left. Harrison was again fastest on the first section and at Glen Helen on lap five Harrison’s lead had increased to 6.2s. At Ballaugh the lead was 5s and it remained at 5s as they left Ramsey. They were both right on the limit through the Gooseneck section providing great excitement for the large crowd.
Hickman was again fastest on the run up the mountain and had cut Harrison’s lead to 3.6s at the Bungalow, 2.5s at Cronk ny Mona and as Hickman crossed the line to start the final, thrilling lap, his deficit to Harrison was only 1.9s. Harrison’s superiority over the first nine miles saw him open up the margin to 3.7s as manoeuvring through later starters came into play on the final lap and he pulled even further away on the high speed run to Ballaugh, his advantage now 5.7s.
However, Hickman took a lump out of the lead on the section into Ramsey. He was again quickest up the mountain and at the Bungalow, he’d taken the lead for the first time by the slender margin of 0.834s. He doubled that at Cronk ny Mona but all eyes were on the chequered flag. Harrison flashed across the finishing line with a new lap record of 134.918mph/ 16:46.742. He held the record for forty five seconds before Hickman crossed the line in a sensational, new outright lap record of 135.452mph, denying Harrison the race win by two seconds. There was a huge round of applause from the crowd when the result and lap records were revealed in commentary.
Cummins was over a minute and a half back in third with Dunlop, Brookes and Johnson finishing in fourth to sixth, Brookes’ final lap of 131.745mph was the fastest by Norton and allowed him to replace Davo Johnson as the fastest Australian rider.
West’s superb ride ended on lap five and although that promoted Phil Crowe up into seventh, the Lincolnshire also went out after coming off at White Gates in Ramsey on the final lap, fortunately he was uninjured. All of this action meant that the seventh place finisher was Martin Jessopp with Jamie Coward, Todd and Brian McCormack completing the top ten.
Dunlop’s fourth place was enough for him to pick up the Joey Dunlop TT Championship with 94 points, with Hickman (86) and Harrison (81) taking second and third.
Todd’s brilliant week saw him pick up the TT Privateer’s Championship as well as the Newcomer’s Trophy.
Swedish rider Bjorn Gunnarsson had an accident at Glen Tramman and was taken by airmed to Nobles hospital and treated for bruising while Dom Herbertson (Laurel Bank), Mike Norbury (Keppel Gate) and Matt Mylchreest (Gorse Lea) also came off their machines during the race but all were reported as unhurt.
Poker Stars Senior TT
- Peter Hickman Smith’s BMW 131.700mph
- Dean Harrison Silicone Kawasaki 131.656mph
- Conor Cummins Padgett Honda 129.554mph
- Michael Dunlop Tyco Suzuki 128.436mph
- Josh Brookes Norton 127.940mph
- Gary Johnson RAF Kawasaki 126.807mph
- Martin Jessopp Riders BMW 125.798mph
- Jamie Coward Penz 13 BMW 125.230mph
- Davey Todd* Burrows’ Suzuki 124.612mph
- Brian McCormack Vanfleet BMW 124.529mph
Thus ended two weeks that gave us beautiful weather and incredible racing that will never be forgotten. We marvelled at lap and race records being set in all classes; with the Sidecars breaking the 19m barrier and Peter Hickman taking the outright course record to 135.452mph. These highs must be measured against the despair of the fatal accidents that befell Dan Kneen and Adam Lyon. There is much to be done following this meeting; not least a full enquiry into the accident that befell Steve Mercer. It would be wrong to speculate on the outcome of such an enquiry; but whatever the outcome; such an accident cannot ever happen again.