Monday, July 15, 2024

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Hickman and Birchall brothers the pacesetters at TT 2023.

The evening was warm, almost calm; with clear blue skies and that meant problems with dazzle on the run out to Ballacraine and again on the mountain climb from Gooseneck to Mountain Box (aka East Snaefell Gate). On the drive out to Kirk Michael it was noticeable that most vantage points had a large number of spectators for so early in the event; especially at Ballaugh and the White House, Kirk Michael.

The first rider to reach Douglas Road Corner was Dean Harrison on the DAO Kawasaki Superbike; he was closely followed by Michael Dunlop who was aboard his MD Racing Honda Superstock machine. The spectacle is amazing as they blast along the narrow road through the village at 160mph. Davo Johnson was next on his Jackson Racing Honda Superbike, and he is right back on the pace after his enforced absence from last year’s event. After Jamie Coward and James Hillier had flashed past on their Superbikes; Josh Brookes came towards us on his FHO Racing BMW; he was late tipping the bike in and ran very wide; throwing up some dust. Thankfully, he was able to power away through the village. Having had that little scare; the rest of the evening was peaceful for the marshals on duty. Peter Hickman was next; he was fast and bang on line on his FHO BMW. Davy Todd and Conor Cummins were both rapid on their Milenco Padgett Honda Superbikes. The action was excellent for the spectators at Douglas Road Corner; many of whom were from France.

Dean Harrison was first to complete the lap; he set the bar at 131.974mph; with Michael Dunlop achieving 131.843mph on the stocker; faster than his Superbike time from yesterday; clearly this machine is set up perfectly. Peter Hickman then took top spot with the first 132mph; his exact speed being 132.079mph. Conor Cummins; never one to push hard in practice; recorded 130.294mph; with Todd not far behind on 129.920mph. Jamie Coward and James Hillier achieved 128.488mph and 128.029mph respectively. Despite his little moment in Kirk Michael, Josh Brookes was second to Michael in the Superstocks at 126.282mph.

The lowering sun was proving more problematic; there were yellow flags at Creg ny Baa following Matt Stevenson’s off; we wish him a speedy recovery from his injuries. There were also yellow flags between the bottom of Barregarrow and Westwood due to oil on the track caused by Mark Gooding’s expiring machine. The action was still excellent, and some fast times were set. Dean Harrison at 131.351mph; with Hicky marginally faster at 131.712mph. Michael Dunlop changed to his Hawk Honda Superbike and set a speed of 131.141mph; whilst Davey Todd and Jamie Coward both topped the 129mph mark. Conor Cummins suffered another mechanical; going out at the 33rd.

Hickman then set off for a lap on his Superstock machine; but that did not go as planned. He had an off piste trip up the slip road at Braddan Bridge; re-joined the course; but eventually pulled off at Ballacraine. Away from the race favourites some fast speeds were set, Shaun Anderson ended third in the Superstock at 125.841mph and the impressive Mike Browne set 125.745mph; both could break the 130mph barrier come race day.

The cleaning of the road due to the oil spill meant that the session for Supersports and Supertwins was cancelled. The food weather should allow that time to be made up later in the week. The sidecars were allowed out later but faced the ever lowering sun and the yellow flags from Barregarrow to Westwood. The Birchall brothers were first to Kirk Michael and took the corner fine style; as did Pete Founds / Jevan Walmsley. Tim Reeves / Mark Wilkes had been caught on the road by Gary Bryan / Phil Hyde. The speed table showed the Birchalls at the top with 116.828mph; with Founds / Walmsley second at 116.110mph. Bryan / Hyde set 110.146mph with Reeves / Wilkes setting 109.623mph on what was their first lap. Only 5 outfits went out for a second lap; the Birchall brothers raised the bar to 118.316mph; whilst Reeves / Wilkes upped their pace to 112.338mph. The Ramsdens joined the 110mph group with 110.236mph. The evening ended with the news that Jake Lowther; passenger to Alan Founds had withdrawn from the meeting; leaving one of the race favourites on the sidelines.

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