It was a cool, calm evening as the start time of the RL360 Superstock Race approached. Once again thin overhead cloud meant that there would be no harsh shadows around the course. There were many spectators gathered along the long straight leading into Sulby Bridge. Whether they should be there is a matter for discussion elsewhere; bikes travelling at 95metres per second give zero reaction time should something go wrong. Shortly before the race began it was announced that James Hillier would be a non-starter; the eligibility of his bike apparently being the issue.
Pieter Hickman, on the Gas Monkey BMW, was the form horse for this race and the form proved correct once again. He has mastered the run through to Glen Helen and led the race there by 0.4s from Davey Todd (Milenco Padgett’s Honda); now over the scare given to him by his delaminating tyre in the Superbike Race. Dean Harrison held third on the Dao Racing Kawasaki; Michael Dunlop (MD Racing Honda); Lee Johnston (Ashcourt BMW) and Conor Cummins (Milenco Padgett’s Honda) completed a top six covered by only 3.7s. Cummins had a moment of doubt on the start line when a red light appeared on the dashboard. It must have been unsettling; but once underway he was soon up to pace.
At Ballaugh; Hickman had increased his lead over Todd to 3.6s, Harrison was 1.7s down on Harrison. Harrison was first to sweep through the long sweeping bend in Sulby village and charge down the long straight to the rising right-hand bend at Sulby Bridge. He was neat and fast as he powered away towards the Ginger Hall. John McGuinness (Honda) was closely behind, Ian Hutchinson was next; he had already taken the starting interval and more from Michael Rutter. Then it was Dunlop, Todd, and Gary Johnson; originally listed a non-starter. Next to burst into view was Hickman on the rocket ship of a BMW. It behaved itself during the hard braking and he swept majestically around the corner. Cummins was next; he too was rapid and neat; he held a slightly tighter line than Hickman. Mark Parrett was an early retirement at Sulby Bridge due to a water leak. Timothee Monot was too late on the brakes; he nearly had it stopped when it reached the air fence; pushed through and dropped into the field behind. He was perfectly all right and the bike appeared had no visible damage.
Hickman was easing away; his lead was up to 7.6s at Ramsey. Harrison remained in third, but Cummins was on the move; he was fourth as he crossed the timing beam at White Gates. Hickman is rapid on the mountain; his bike is the fastest I have ever seen on the climb out of the Gooseneck. As they came in for the mandatory pit stop his lead was up to 12.78s; his opening lap average speed was 132.217mph. Todd has 3 in hand over new third placed man Cummins; who in turn was just 1s ahead of Johnston. Harrison and Dunlop completed the leader board.
At Glen Helen on lap 2 the effect of the pit stops could be seen. Hickman led Todd by 9.5s; with Harrison third thanks to another slick stop routine from his pet crew. Cummins, Johnston and Dunlop completed the leader board. Harrison was first on the road, neat and fast; then we had the legends that are Ian Hutchinson and John McGuinness in close company. As he went past us Cummins had again edged Harrison out of third place and was starting to hunt down his teammate. Lee Johnston ran slightly wide but lost little time and held onto his fifth place. Phil Crowe had a moment of concern when the engine cut out; he managed to get it to fire up again and was on his way.
Hickman was rapid over the mountain and led by 15.92s as they began the final lap. Cummins was 3.27s down on Todd and 2.9s ahead of Harrison. Johnston and Dunlop continued their battle with just 1.6s between them. For Johnston another retirement soon ended his hopes; this time at Glen Darragh. At Glen Helen Hickman led by 16.5s from Todd; with Cummins closing the gap to less than 1s. Todd and Hickman were in company with Hutchinson and McGuinness as they came toward us for the final time. Having to pass two very fast, but not quiet as fast, riders may have cost Hickman and Todd some time. Cummins was rapid as he swept through the bridge and blasted away towards his hometown. At Ramsey, Hickman led by 11.4s from new second placed man Cummins; who was on a real flyer. Hickman matched Cummins over his favourite part of the course and it was he won took the victor’s laurels; his final lap average speed was 132.274mph. Cummins set the fastest lap of the race, and a new personal best, at 133.116mph; simply stunning. Todd’s final lap was at 131.704mph, he took third by 12.5s from Harrison. Michael Dunlop took fifth; with Jamie Coward (Steadplan Yamaha) taking sixth after another fine ride. Ian Hutchinson; Dominic Herbertson, on his shortened wheelbase BMW; John McGuinness and Phil Crowe completed the top of in what had been a very fine race.
Report and images by Richard Radcliffe. For more info check out our dedicated Isle of Man TT News page Isle of Man TT