Image: Dean Harrison at the Gooseneck during practice for the 2019 TT before winning the 2019 Senior TT. Photo RP Watkinson
23-time TT winner – and six-time Senior TT winner - John McGuinness told Manx Radio’s Chris Kinley that the conditions for Friday’s Dunlop Senior TT were the best of the whole of TT 2019.
The dry but overcast morning proved perfect for a sensational six-lap showdown to see the 2019 Isle of Man TT Races finish on a high.
Peter Hickman had a 0.385 second lead over Dean Harrison through Glen Helen for the first time, at Ballaugh Harrison had turned the deficit into a 0.185 second credit, and by Ramsey the advantage had swung back to Hickman by just 0.118 seconds.
Conor Cummins, the local hero, held third place from a charging Michael Dunlop, who had a 4.7 second lead over David Johnson. Johnson, fresh from his first TT podium in Thursday’s Superstock race was nearly five seconds in front of the Honda RC213V-S of Michael Rutter.
Hickman stretched his lead to 1 second at the Bungalow, showing yet again his total mastery of the Mountain section.
Hickman’s opening lap of 134.28 mph was easily the fastest of TT 2019 to that point, more impressive for being from a standing start on an unproven Superbike.
John McGuinness was given as pulled in at the Bungalow and later confirmed as a retirement.
Starting the second lap of the race the leaderboard showed Hickman, holding a 2.209 second lead from Harrison, Cummins stayed in third 0.824 seconds in front of Michael Dunlop. David Johnson was still in fifth and 2018 newcomer Davey Todd was up to sixth, relegating Michael Rutter to seventh. Jamie Coward held eighth.
On the fast and sinuous west of the course the gap between Harrison and the flying Hickman grew to three seconds but Conor Cummins managed to increase the gap to Michael to five seconds.
The attrition rate proved high with Davy Morgan, Stefano Bonetti, Paul Jordan and Rob Hodson all retiring in the pits at the end of their first laps, and Paul Potchy Williams joined the retirements list, stopping at Joey’s.
On the drop from the Bungalow to the pit stops Hickman extended the lead to nearly seven seconds but Conor’s lead over Michael was cut down to 5.4 seconds.
There was disappointment for Honda as David “Davo” Johnson was reported to have retired at Bedstead and Ian Hutchinson was a retirement in the pits.
After solid and uneventful pit stops from the leading riders the top three at Glen Helen looked the same as the lap before but with a ten second lead for Hickman and Harrison holding a 22 second lead on Cummins.
Michael Dunlop exited the pits at the same moment as Hickman but allowed Peter to lead the way down Bray Hill to give the faster rider clear road. Dunlop had a lot of work to do to try and take a podium place, lying in fourth but 12.284 seconds adrift on Cummins.
With the exit of Davo Johnson, Davey Todd’s sixth was transformed into a fifth place, trailing Michael Dunlop by 44.831 seconds at Ramsey on lap three, but with Michael Rutter’s Honda snapping at his heels with 1.08 seconds to make up.
Xavier Denis and Timothee Monot joined the growing list of retirements in the pits as the crowds waited to see the leaders through the grandstand for the start of their fourth lap.
At half-race distance Hickman’s margin over Harrison had grown to 13.486 seconds but Harrison wasn’t going to settle for second easily. At Ballaugh Bridge on the third lap he’d pulled back half a second but coming into the second and final pit stop after the Mountain section the lead for Hickman was 17.683 seconds.
Conor Cummins kept a tight hold on third place with a cushion of over 18 seconds from Michael Dunlop.
The pit stops injected drama back into the race after a steady couple of laps. As Harrison and Hickman passed the timing point at Glen Helen for the fifth lap the difference between them had dropped to just 7.915 seconds, a change of nearly ten seconds and at Ballaugh that lead was only 1.130 seconds – Peter’s team reporting cooling issues on the Smiths Racing BMW Superbike.
At Sulby Hickman’s top speed had dropped to only 159mph – well off the 190mph+ the potent BMW S1000RR had shown on previous laps - pointing to serious engine problems.
Hickman trailed into Ramsey 7.877 seconds down on the Silicone Engineering Kawasaki of Dean Harrison, with Manx Radio’s commentator Roy Moore reporting the Lincolnshire star was short shifting to preserve the motor as much as possible.
The climb to the Bungalow from Ramsey, for so long the happy hunting ground of Hickman as he gobbled seconds out of Harrison on the first four laps, showed the depths of Hickman’s problems: by the Bungalow he was 14.5 seconds down on Dean, and by the grandstand as they started the final lap the difference was out to 18.386 seconds.
A late charge from James Hillier saw him gather in and eventually pass Davey Todd to take fifth place behind Michael Dunlop.
There was speculation Peter Hickman would pull in to the pits before the start of the final lap but, true competitor that he is, he passed the grandstand and the crowds could see that the short shifting reported by Roy at Ramsey was certainly the case.
Dean’s lead continued to grow through lap, pulling out to over 46 seconds at Ramsey. Conor Cummins was closing in on Hickman with just 12 seconds separating them as they began the mountain climb for the final time.
Peter Hickman held on to take second but the gap was down to 5.817 seconds at the flag.
In the winners’ enclosure an ecstatic Dean was quick to praise his team and sponsors and to pay tribute to Peter as a tough competitor.
In turn Peter acknowledged the determined efforts of Harrison and congratulated him on his first big bike win.