A day of high emotion at the Isle of Man TT saw the outright lap records for both solos and sidecars blown into the weeds. Delays for weather and a red flag situation meant that some of the marshals were on duty for more than 12 hours; they deserve a medal for their dedication to the event; all are unpaid, doing it for the love of the races.
Practice times had indicated that the RST Superbike Race would be a record breaking; it did not disappoint. After six laps of amazing high speed action Michael Dunlop gave Tyco BMW an emotional victory in today’s RST Superbike race, he took the lead on lap four after long time leader Dean Harrison retired at Sulby Crossroads.
The Silicone Engineering Kawasaki rider set an incredible pace right from the start. Notice of what was unfolding was given at Glen Helen on the opening lap, where Harrison had already opened up a 3.7s lead over Dunlop. Peter Hickman was a further 1.9s behind in third. James Hillier, Conor Cummins and Gary Johnson completed the top six. By Ballaugh, Harrison had widened his lead to 5.6s and as he swept around Ramsey Hairpin he led by 7.8s.
Our vantage point was at the fast sweeping bends below the Gooseneck. There was a smaller than normal crowd gathered at the Gooseneck and prior to racing they had given an enthusiastic greeting to John McGuinness who completed a “parade” lap on the silver Norton that he had been hoping to race.
The action from the racers was breathtaking; many used all of the track as they hustled their big 1000cc mounts between the walls and grass banks. There a few near misses; most notably from Shaun Anderson’s whose rear shocker appeared to be problematic for the final two laps.
Conor Cummins on the Padgett’s Honda was first to brush by the stonewall on the right hand kink below us, heeled left, tight to the inside of the track, then out to within inches of the grass bank on the exit before breaking hard for the Gooseneck. Harrison was next and similarly neat and fast. Rutter was next on his Superstock engined machine; then Dunlop, who on our watch was 12.25s down on the flying Harrison. Hickman was third, Hillier, Cummins and David Johnson completed the leader board; less than 2s covering them. Hickman was soon to suffer engine problems that caused him to park the misfiring beast at the end of the lap.
Harrison kept pulling away as he set record times over the mountain sectors. He was greeted by gasps at the Grandstand as he charged past; he had produced a sensational opening lap of 134.432mph – a new outright lap record from a standing start. He held a lead of 11.3s over Dunlop; 132.943mph; with Cummins 131.763 mph; moving up to third as Hickman’s problems slowed him. Hickman’s demise left Hillier, Davo Johnson and Gary Johnson filling the leader board.
By Glen Helen second time around, Harrison was 14.7s clear of Dunlop, who in turn was 10.7s ahead of Cummins. Fourth to sixth remained the same, with Michael Rutter, Josh Brookes, Jamie Coward and Lee Johnston rounding out the top ten.
With the fastest ever times in all six sectors now in his name, having not held one before the race, Harrison led by 17s at Ramsey; Cummins was 14s down on Dunlop; but had edged out to 7.4s ahead of Hillier. When Harrison came in at the end of the lap for his first pit stop, he stopped the clocks at 134.180mph. His lead was now 16.3s over Dunlop, who lapped at 133.513mph. Cummins was still in third after setting a new personal best lap of 132.589mph. Hillier, Davo Johnson and Gary Johnson maintained their leader board positions.
Fastest pit stop went Lee Johnston; Dunlop’s was also very slick; it allowed him to gain time on both Harrison and more especially Cummins. Harrison was in mood to slacken his grip on the race and swept through Glen Helen for the third time with his lead from Dunlop still over 16 seconds; with the Ulsterman in turn some 24.3s clear of Cummins. Indeed, the gaps between the riders were extending, with Hillier ten seconds adrift of Cummins but 13s clear of David Johnson, with Gary Johnson over 30s back in sixth. Dunlop was increasing his pace as he set about chasing down Harrison. He had cut the lead to under 16s at Ballaugh and to 14.4s at Ramsey.
At half race distance, Harrison’s lead had been reduced to 11.5s as Dunlop continued to make his charge, the Ballymoney rider setting the fastest sector time from Cronk ny Mona to the Grandstand. The race was really tightening up and by Glen Helen on the fourth lap Dunlop had taken a further 2.5s out of his deficit, the difference now just nine seconds.
At Ballaugh, Harrison was clearly in trouble because Cummins passed going into the village. Harrison had dropped over five seconds on the run from Glen Helen and the lead was just 4.6s at the famous hump-backed bridge. Then huge disappointment: the news came through that Harrison’s superb effort had ended with retirement at Sulby Crossroads due to a failed clutch. Another to suffer retirement was Gary Johnson who had parked up at Sarah’s.
Dunlop completed lap four at 133.240mph. He enjoyed a 40.3s lead over Cummins with Hillier in third some 20.5s in arrears. David Johnson was up to fourth with Rutter and Lee Johnston promoted to fifth and sixth respectively by the retirements.
A slow pit stop for Cummins allowed Hillier to cut his deficit in half. Cummins was quicker on the track and slowly but surely edged away from his pursuer as the lap progressed. He spent most of the final lap in company with Dunlop and kept Hillier at bay.
Dunlop duly took the chequered flag for his 16th TT win by 50.8s from Conor Cummins (Padgetts Honda) with James Hillier (Quattro Plant JG Speedfit Kawasaki) taking third.
Cummins equalled his best ever result as he took his seventh TT podium. Hillier rounded out the podium, the 11th time he has been on the TT rostrum.
Further back, David Johnson equalled his best ever TT result in fourth while Rutter saw off a late charge from Johnston to hold onto fifth. Martin Jessopp took his best ever 1000cc result around the Mountain Course with a fine seventh with Ivan Lintin and Phil Crowe doing likewise in eighth and ninth, the latter only a fraction off his maiden 130mph+ lap with a speed of 129.957mph. Josh Brookes completed the top ten on the beautiful looking and sounding Norton.
Crowe was the first privateer to finish ahead of Sam West (11th), who lapped at 129.123mph on the final lap, and Shaun Anderson (13th) whilst newcomer Davey Todd had a superb ride into 16th, at an average speed of 122.986mph. He lapped at 126.268mph on his opening lap to become the third fastest newcomer in TT history.
Dunlop dedicated his victory to his fallen team mate; who had shown in practice that he could have been on the podium; had fate not intervened so tragically. Cummins was delighted to be back on the podium after a race in which he showed just how good he really is. Hillier produced a superb ride and with some changes to be made can be a serious challenger for victory in Friday’s Senior TT.
The pace of the race was amazing; 27 riders lapped at over 125mph on the first lap. There were 20 laps at over 130mph during the race; taking the grand total to 125 in the 11 years since John McGuinness set the first. Best of the riders making the step up from the MGP was Barry Lee Evans in 23rd place at 119.948mph.
RST Superbike TT
- Michael Dunlop Tyco BMW 130.324mph new record
- Conor Cummins Padgett Honda 129.273mph
- James Hillier Quattro Plant Kawasaki 128.830mph
- Davo Johnson Gulf BMW 128.167mph
- Michael Rutter Bathams BMW 126.403mph
- Lee Johnston Honda 126.117mph
- Martin Jessopp Riders BMW 125.672mph
- Ivan Lintin Dafabet Devitt Kawasaki 125.631mph
- Philip Crowe Hand-Trans BMW 125.532mph
- Josh Brookes Norton 125.490mph