Friday’s Senior TT; the blue riband event in road racing was held in the best conditions of the fortnight. It was warm; with virtually no breeze, thin high cloud meant that there were no harsh shadows to contend with in the tree lined sections. The roads were perfectly dry and had some rubber down following yesterday’s frenetic day of action. The race started unusually early to avoid the monsoon rain forecast to hit the island.
The Smith’s team and Peter Hickman were unhappy that Peter had been forced into using the Superbike; rather that the hybrid that he used to win the Superbike Race. This was because the Superstock had been taken apart by the scrutineers after yesterday’s race. Normally this would not be a problem; but because there was no rest day; the bike could not be rebuilt in time for the Senior Race. It is normal for the winner’s bike to be stripped down to ensure that all is correct. We have seen race winners lose victory for having the wrong component(s) fitted; even if it gave no advantage and we have seen an oversized engine identified. Rules are rules and must be seen to be applied without fear or favour. Lee Johnston was a notable non-starter.
Conor Cummins was first to set off towards the frightening descent of Bray Hill on his Fireblade; with Dean Harrison in hot pursuit 10s later. Peter Hickman used to drop time on the first run to Glen Helen; but no more; he led as the bikes powered off up Creg Willey’s Hill. Harrison was 0.3s down; he in turn led Cummins by 5.6s. Michael Dunlop, Michael Rutter and Davo Johnson completed the first leader board. James Hillier was well down and assumed to have overshot somewhere; he would have to battle back from a lowly 19th place. At Ballaugh, Harrison had cut 9s out of the starting interval on Cummins and was soon to pass the hare that he had been chasing. On the clock Harrison had the lead by 0.2s from Hickman; with Cummins 8.8s further back.
As the riders swept past the large crowd gathered in Ramsey; Harrison led Cummins on the road by about 100m. On corrected time the pendulum had swung back and it was Hickman who led by 0.118s as he set about climbing the mountain, where he has taken chunks of time out of everyone for the last two years. Cummins was 11.5s down on Harrison and just 0.2s ahead of Dunlop on our timing. Hickman was the fastest up the mountain and led by 1s at the Bungalow. It was at this point that John McGuinness parked the Norton that has been bedevilled by electrical problems.
Hickman was fastest down the mountain and led by 2.209s as he flashed over the line to start lap 2. His lap of 134.284mph was to prove the best of the race. Harrison lapped at 133.995; Cummins at 132.130mph; Dunlop 132.024mph, Davo Johnson 130.983mph and Davy Todd recorded his first 130+ lap with 130.229mph; superb for rider who made his debut just last year. Hillier was recovering from his error and ended the lap in 11th place.
At Glen Helen on lap 2 Harrison had nibbled 0.4s out of the lead and was in turn 16s clear of Cummins; who was 3s ahead of Dunlop. At the famous bridge the lead for Hickman was 1.9s; with Cummins now 18s behind Harrison; but edging away from Dunlop. As they swept through Ramsey for the second time the lead was 3.5s; with Hickman’s strongest section ahead. Cummins was 19.8s down on Harrison but had pulled another 0.9s out of Dunlop. Hickman stormed up the mountain and led by 6.524s as he crossed the tram lines and swept away to Brandywell. Davo Johnson who had been holding 5th position was a retirement at Bedstead; less than 1 mile from the pits.
A lap at 134.281mph gave Hickman an advantage of 8.067s as he entered pit lane for fuel and a new rear tyre. The first 5 all lapped at over 132mph; this is superb given the lack of preparation time. Hickman’s pit crew were slick and gained another 1.2s for their man; having him out in 54.77s. At Glen Helen, Hickman’s lead over Harrison was 10s; Cummins was 22s behind Harrison, but aided by a faster pit stop was now 11s ahead of Dunlop. Harrison gained 0.5s on the run Ballaugh; but lost 1s on the 7 miles blast into Ramsey. Harrison was now 22s ahead of Cummins who had 13s in hand over Dunlop. Todd and Rutter held 5th and 6th but were being closed down by a charging Hillier.
Hickman was again rapid on the mountain ascent and led by 12.5s at the Bungalow. Entering the pits for the final time he had a lead of 13.5s over Harrison. Cummins was now 27.2s down on Harrison; but had increased has advantage over Dunlop to 15.83s. Hickman had another slick stop gaining 1.6s on Harrison. Just when things seemed to be set in a pattern, the momentum swung decisively in Harrison’s favour. At Glen Helen on lap 4 he had cut 10s out Hickman’s lead. The Smith’s team reported that there was an issue with the cooling system that they had been unable to resolve and this must have resurfaced. Peter later explained that once the problem started the machine would fire water out if the engine was working at above 11,000 rpm. He had to manage the problem but it hampered him severely; for example he was giving away 35mph on Sulby Straight.
At Ballaugh we had a new leader; Harrison was now 1.1s ahead of Hickman. Harrison was bang on line as he swept through Ramsey. We half expected Hickman to be a retirement; but he came through neat and tidy as ever to begin the mountain climb. Harrison’s lead was now 7.9s on our watch and now the mountain would be his friend given Hickman’s problem. At the Bungalow the lead was up to 14s; with Hickman 34s ahead of Cummins.
Starting the final lap Harrison led by 53s; with Hickman 33.2s ahead of Cummins. Dunlop, Hillier and Todd filled out the leader board. With Harrison secure in first place, the main interest was on whether or not Cummins could snatch second from Hickman. The gap was 17.7 at Ballaugh and in Conor’s home town it was 12s as the riders took the applause of the crowd. Hickman restricted the damage to 3s on the mountain climb and managed to bring the BMW home 5.817s ahead of Cummins who had been managing a suspension issue since the third lap.
Dunlop took an unaccustomed 4th place; Hillier was 5th; edging out Davey Todd by just 2.57s; the latter lapping at 131.491mph on the final lap; he is a star in the making. Rutter brought the raucous MotoGP replica RCV Honda home in 7th; with leading privateer Jamie Coward taking a fine 8th place on his Yamaha. In doing so he became only the third rider to lap the Mountain Course at over 130mph on a Yamaha; the other two being the late William Dunlop and Dean Harrison.
Dunlop Senior TT
- Dean Harrison Silicone Kawasaki 130.824mph
- Peter Hickman Smith’s BMW 129.719mph
- Conor Cummins Milenco Honda 129.599mph
- Michael Dunlop Tyco BMW 129.028mph
- James Hillier Quattro Kawasaki 127.740mph
- Davey Todd Penz 13 BMW 127.689mph
- Michael Rutter Bathams Honda 1270079mph
- Jamie Coward Prez Yamaha 126.881mph
- Brian McCormack ON-1 BMW 126.166mph
- Dominic Herbertson Davies Kawasaki 125.790mph
A troubled; frustrating and ultimately tiring TT meeting came to a close with a superb race and a deserved big bike victory for Dean Harrison who was robbed of one by machine failure last year. It was a rich reward for him and the dedicated Silicone Engineering team. It gave Kawasaki their first Senior TT win since Mick Grant on the two stroke four cylinder machine in 1975. Hickman was gracious in defeat; more than happy to have secured a hat trick of wins; especially his first Supersport win; appropriately on a Triumph. Cummins; again best of the Honda riders; took his fourth consecutive big bike podium finish and is determined to come back stronger next year. The fates seem to have conspired against Hutchy and John McGuinness, will this prove to have been the swansong for two true greats of the TT? The ongoing generational change has seen riders such as Davey Todd and Jamie Coward rising to prominence.
A huge well done is due to Gary Thompson and his team; how they remained sane is a mystery.