Following the warm-up lap there was a one hour delay to the start of the RL 360 Superstock Race 2; whilst an overhanging branch at Greeba Castle; suddenly deemed to be dangerous; was removed. Now is not the time to discuss the circumstances, but they will be discussed after the event. Initially, Davey Todd was listed as a non-starter because he had the same viral infection that had laid teammate Conor Cummins low. Todd is made of stern stuff; he had an injection and was eventually passed as fit to ride; his gallant effort ended after two laps; he toured back from Ramsey to retire.
The race saw Peter Hickman draw level with the great Steve Hislop on 11 TT wins; but that landmark was overshadowed by his phenomenal last lap. He was simply poetry in motion as he lapped the 37.73 miles of the most famous racetrack in the world on his FHO Racing BMW in 16m 36.114s: 136.358mph. As with the Supersport Race 2; this one followed the same pattern for the podium riders as Race 1.
Peter Hickman had established a lead he would never lose when the riders reached Glen Helen for the first time. He was 0.16s ahead of Michael Dunlop (MD Racing Honda); with seemingly perennial third placed man Dean Harrison (DAO Kawasaki) 2.675s further back. Conor Cummins (Milenco Padgetts’ Honda); not fully recovered yet; held 4th. Jamie Coward was 5th; James Hillier 6th, and John McGuinness 7th; 3s covered those three riders. The lead was 1.5s at Ballaugh, where Hillier was up to 5th.
There was a cosmopolitan mix of spectators at Schoolhouse Corner; France, Belgium, the USA and New Zealand were amongst the countries represented. First into view was Dean Harrison; he was very fast and used most of the road on the lovely looking Kawasaki. John McGuinness (Honda Britain Fireblade) was next; Davo Johnson (Jackson Honda) having been forced to retire at Glen Helen. Next through was Jamie Coward; he had the very rapid Dunlop just 50m behind him and closing fast. Then it was James Hillier on the throaty OMG Yamaha. The riders were putting on a thrilling spectacle for the fans; Conor was inch perfect as he passed his alma mater. We did not see James Hind; he was parked at Sulby.
Just up the road at White Gates; the timing showed that Hickman led by just 0.81s; Dunlop having set a new sector record. Harrison was 8.29s down on Dunlop. Cummins, Hillier and Coward held station; with Josh Brookes (FHO BMW) settling in and increasing his pace in 7th. Hickman was 0.1s faster on the climb to the Bungalow and 0.8s faster down the other side. As he entered the pits for the mandatory stop; he led by 1.824s; his lap speed 134.068mph. Dunlop lapped at 133.827mph and Harrison at 132.305mph. Cummins, Coward and Hillier completed the top 6.
Harrison had the fastest pit stop; Dunlop was 0.2s quicker that Hickman; whilst Cummins dropped a little time to all of his leader board rivals. At Glen Helen on lap 2, Harrison was 11.6s down on Dunlop and a similar amount ahead of Cummins. Josh Brookes displaced Hillier from the top 6. An absolute sector record gave Hickman an increased lead of 3.365s as they approached the half distance marker. The lead was 4.56s at the Bungalow. The battle for 6th saw 6c covering Brookes, McGuinness and Hillier.
Starting the final lap, Hickman led by 5.15s; there was no chance of simply controlling the race from the front; this would be a full out blast to the finish. Another outright sector for Hickman increased his lead by 1.5s at Glen Helen. Amazingly; every rider set a new personal best for the class. Hickman gained another 2.97s on the run to Ballaugh. The speeds were amazing at Schoolhouse; with a few needing to inch into the bus stop as they charged towards Parliament Square. Personal bests for the leader board riders left Hickman with a lead of 8.664s and only14.23 miles left to go.
Hickman was in a class of his own on the mountain climb; he destroyed the sector record and took 8s out of Dunlop. There was no let-up; he set new records on the final two sectors and crossed the line; with the new outright course lap record secured; to wild cheering from the grandstand. Dunlop’s final lap was also stunning; 134.730mph. Harrison lapped at 132.400mph; Conor Cummins lapped at 132.376mph; truly wonderful after what he has been through. Brookes lapped at 131.795mph to snatch 5th by 0.49s from Coward who lapped at 131.392mph. Ryan Cringle was best newcomer and best local; he finished 19th at 123.658mph and set a personal best lap at 126.096mph; what an achievement.
The race record was of course shredded; Hickman set the new mark at 133.676mph; that takes the breath away. The big question is; will he ride the stocker in the Senior or take the on the risk that changes made to his Superbike will not have done what was hoped for; if they do not Dunlop will beat him.