Michael Dunlop gave Tyco BMW an emotional victory in today’s RST Superbike race, the opening race of the 2018 Isle of Man TT Races fuelled by Monster Energy, with the Ulsterman taking over the lead on lap four after long time leader Dean Harrison retired at Sulby Crossroads.
The Silicone Engineering Kawasaki rider shattered the outright lap record from a standing start with a lap of 134.432mph to open up an 18 second lead but as he hit problems, Dunlop took his 16th TT win by 50.8s from Conor Cummins (Padgetts Honda) with James Hillier (Quattro Plant JG Speedfit Kawasaki) taking third.
At Glen Helen on the opening lap, Harrison had already opened up a 3.7s lead over Dunlop with Peter Hickman a further 1.9s behind in third. Hillier, Cummins and Gary Johnson completed the top six. But Harrison was really pressing on, extending his advantage to 5.6s at Ballaugh and adding another 2.2s by the time he reached Ramsey.
With a sensational opening lap of 134.432mph – a new outright lap record and from a standing start to boot - Harrison held an 11.3s lead over Dunlop with Cummins moving up to third as Hickman dropped back. Indeed, the Smiths Racing BMW pulled in to the pits to retire which meant Hillier, David Johnson and Gary Johnson now filled the top six positions.
By Glen Helen second time around, Harrison was 14.7s clear of Dunlop who in turn was 10.7s ahead of Cummins. Fourth to sixth remained the same as Michael Rutter, Josh Brookes, Jamie Coward and Lee Johnston rounded out the top ten.
With the fastest ever times in all six sectors now under his belt, having not held one before the race, Harrison led by 17s at Ramsey and as he came in at the end of the lap for his first pit stop, he stopped the clocks at 134.180mph. His lead was a healthy 16.3s over Dunlop, who lapped at 133.513mph. Cummins was still in third after setting a new personal best lap of 132.589mph as Hillier, David Johnson and Gary Johnson maintained the fourth, fifth and sixth places.
After the first set of pit stops, Harrison swept through Glen Helen for the third time with his gap over Dunlop still over 16 seconds with the Ulsterman in turn some 24.3s clear of Cummins. Indeed, the gaps between the riders were extending with Hillier ten seconds adrift of Cummins but 13s clear of David Johnson with Gary Johnson over 30s back in sixth. However, a better pit stop saw Rutter get ahead of Brookes at Glen Helen.
At half race distance, Harrison’s lead had been cut by 11.5s as Dunlop began to make his charge, the Ballymoney rider taking back one of the fastest sector times from Cronk ny Mona to the Grandstand. The race was really hotting up and by Glen Helen on the fourth lap, Dunlop had taken a further 2.5s out of his deficit, the difference now just nine seconds.
Harrison still led on the road at Ballaugh but all was not well as he lost over five seconds on the run from Glen Helen and the gap was just 4.6s over the famous hump-backed bridge. And shortly afterwards, news came through that Harrison’s superb race had ended with retirement at Sulby Crossroads.
Dunlop completed lap four with a lap of 133.240mph and a 40.3s lead over Cummins with Hillier now in third some 20.5s in arrears. David Johnson was up to fourth with Rutter and Lee Johnston promoted to fifth and sixth respectively as Gary Johnson’s strong ride came to an end with a retirement at Sarah’s Cottage.
With considerable gaps between the leading riders, positions stayed the same over the final two laps and although Hillier halved the deficit to Cummins after the second pit stop, the Manxman responded to edge away once more and secure his second place finish.
Dunlop duly took the chequered flag for his 16th TT win with Cummins equalling his best ever result in second as he took his seventh TT podium. Hillier rounded out the podium, the 11th time he has been on the TT rostrum.
Further back, David Johnson equalled his best ever TT result in fourth while Rutter saw off a late charge from Johnston to hold onto fifth. Martin Jessopp took his best ever 1000cc result around the Mountain Course in a fine seventh with Ivan Lintin and Phil Crowe doing likewise in eighth and ninth, the latter only a fraction off his maiden 130mph+ lap with a speed of 129.957mph. Josh Brookes completed the top ten.
Crowe was the first privateer to finish ahead of Sam West (11th), who lapped at 129.123mph on the final lap, and Shaun Anderson (13th) whilst newcomer Davey Todd had a superb ride into 16th as he lapped at 126.268mph to become the third fastest newcomer in TT history.