Tuesday evening was the inverse of Monday; the island had clear blue skies and basked in spring sunshine. The down side was that there was a fairly stiff breeze blowing and the riders reported that this was causing problems on the run to Ballacraine and on the mountain section. This and the lowering sun may well have helped to take the edge of speeds.
After a slight delay, for a non-TT medical emergency to be dealt with, the session got underway at 6.31pm. Dean Harrison’s Silicone Engineering Kawasaki was at the front of the pack on the grid but it lost power before he had even set off and the Bradford rider eventually got away mid-pack on his second Superbike.
At the Bungalow it was very cold in the northerly breeze; more like February than late May. There was a good gathering of hardy souls there to watch the action unfold. The first lap was the usual frenetic cavalry charge as everyone wanted to be out early to take full advantage of the time available. Prior to the bikes arriving the marshals practiced their routine for dealing with a casualty should an accident occur; this professionalism normally escapes the attention of the spectators and the media.
Michael Rutter (Bathams Racing Honda) and James Hillier (Quattro Plant Wicked Coatings Kawasaki) were first to head down Glencruchery Road, followed by Honda Racing teammates Hutchinson and David Johnson, the latter on his Superstock Fireblade.
Gary Johnson (RAF Regular & Reserve Kawasaki) and Michael Dunlop (Tyco BMW) were next to go with Hickman (Smiths Racing BMW) and Lee Johnston (Ashcourt Racing BMW) on their Superstock mounts. However, outright lap record holder Hickman was soon in trouble and, after pulling off the circuit at Quarter Bridge, he immediately returned to the pits where he went back out on his Triumph Supersport machine
First to sweep into view around the right hand bends after Graham’s were Ian Hutchinson and Michael Dunlop; both sweeping through the left hander in fine style. Next were Michael Rutter and Davo Johnson; both were neat and fast. Next were James Hiller and Lee Johnston who both chose to use their stockers to settle into the task ahead. Gary Johnson pulled in to make a minor adjustment. That was it for any action other than the bikes circulating at high speed.
Dean Harrison is putting down his marker; he continued his form from Sunday’s Supersport session by putting in the fastest lap of the night on his Superbike with a speed of 129.53mph. Conor Cummins and James Hillier were fast and neat; they continued their NW200 form also by lapping rapidly in the Superbike class.
Harrison also topped the Superstock leader board but it was a night that saw a number of the other front runners hit trouble including Peter Hickman, who was forced to stop twice when he finally put in a lap on his Smiths Racing BMW Superbike. Whilst that was sorted he put in a couple of fast laps on his Supersport Triumph.16-time TT Race winner Ian Hutchinson was another rider to be hit by ill luck; the Yorkshire rider came off his bike at the 11th Milestone; it is a relief to know that he was unhurt..
Conor Cummins was the early pace setter, posting the best sector times on the opening lap while John McGuinness stopped the Norton at Sulby to make adjustments on his opening lap. Dunlop was the first to complete a lap with 126.65mph but then came into the pits to check tyre and gearing. Hutchinson lapped at 125.39mph with Rutter at 124.22mph but Cummins was the quickest on the opening lap on the Milenco by Padgetts Motorcycles Honda with a speed of 128.09mph.
Both Dunlop and Hutchinson pulled straight into the pits at the end of lap 1. Derek McGee; second in last year’s Lightweight, posted the quickest Supersport lap at 122.04mph. Gary Johnson completed his first lap at 112.55mph; due to aforementioned stop; he was slightly slower than McGuinness who completed his first official lap on the silver Norton at 113.50mph.
The second lap saw Cummins “go purple” in each sector and he looked to be on course for a 129mph+ lap before; crossing the line at a leisurely 104.96mph after being black flagged out on course at Brandywell with the Honda reported to be smoking. Gary Johnson was another be stopped, due to a loose camera. Hopefully all of Gary’s problems are now behind him.
Rutter and David Johnson increased their pace on lap two, at 126.48mph and 126.63mph respectively, but Harrison topped that with a speed of 126.68mph on his ZX-10RR Superstock machine. Hickman put in two laps on the Supersport bike, the second of which was 123.92mph which made him the quickest 600cc machine on the night ahead of McGee.
Hickman went back out on the Superbike but again hit trouble and pulled off the course for a second time, this time at Douglas Road Corner at Kirk Michael which signalled the end of his night.
On the fourth lap, Harrison went quickest in the Superstock class with a lap of 129.34mph with Hillier the third rider to break the 128mph barrier with a speed of 128.07mph on his Superbike. McGuinness went out on the Padgetts Supersport machine before returning to the action on the Norton upon which he lapped at 123.73mph.
Harrison continued to make the headlines though and he put in a lap right at the end of the session to move to the top of the Superbike leader board with Cummins and Hillier ending the evening in second and third. Harrison remained on top of the Superstock times as well with David Johnson in second and Sam West lapping at just under 125mph to slot into third.
The strong winds were clearly keeping speeds down but there were impressive performances from Jamie Coward 126.39mph, Stefano Bonetti 124.48mph and Brian McCormack 124.03mph while Kiwi rider Jay Lawrence, a TT newcomer, but not a circuit newcomer showed his potential by lapping at 122.56mph on the Buildbase Suzuki.
There were three incidents in the Supersport class. Paul Williams came off at Governors but was reported to be unhurt while Jason Corcoran (Glen Helen) and Emmett Burke (Gooseneck) were taken to Nobles hospital with reported neck and leg injuries respectively.
As the sun settled lower into the western sky and the temperature fell even further the charioteers took to the course. There was little to choose between Ben and Tom Birchall and John Holden/Lee Cain in the early sectors on the opening lap. The two pairs were together as they came into the Bungalow; the Birchalls leading on the road. However, the Birchalls slowed towards the end of the lap and finished with a speed of 111.55mph which made them fifth quickest with Pete Founds/Jevan Walmsley 112.90mph, Alan Founds/Jake Lowther 111.89mph and Lewis Blackstock/Patrick Rosney 111.80mphm all slotting in ahead of them.
Two of the front runners had problems though Tim Reeves/Mark Wilkes stopped to make adjustments; these clearly worked because they were as fast as at the Bungalow and on the climb to Brandywell. Dave Molyneux/Harry Payne retired at Laurel Bank; the worst possible start on the new LCR outfit. Making everyone sit up and take notice were newcomers Ryan and Callum Crowe, the sons of former five-time TT Race winner Nick Crowe; they looked like they were on rails and lapped at a simply amazing 109.76mph on their 675cc Triumph.
Second time around and Founds/Walmsley upped their pace to 114.40mph, which was only 2.2 seconds off their best ever lap of the Mountain Course, whilst brother Alan went slightly quicker with a speed of 112.35mph. Tim Reeves and Mark Wilkes also clocked a 112+mph lap with112.291mph at the end of the session.
Estelle Leblond/Frank Claeys and Gary Bryan/Phil Hyde both lapped in excess of 108mph. The returning Allan Schofield, with Steve Thomas in the chair, settled straight back in at 107.88mph. Maria Costello/Julie Canipa enjoyed a couple of laps with their best (99.369mph) just shy of the 100mph mark on Maria’s first full laps as a sidecar competitor.
The weather forecast for tonight is awful and not much better for tomorrow; when an afternoon session could be held if the weather gods permit. If the forecast proves correct, Clerk of the Course Gary Thompson will have a major problem to resolve.