RST Superbike Race
It was Conor Cummins who was away in the number one spot, followed by Dean Harrison. John McGuinness made his return to racing at The Island on the Norton in third with Ian Hutchinson fourth, James Hillier fifth on the Kawasaki and Michael Dunlop away in sixth. Peter Hickman, the man who smashed the big bike lap record in 2018, started his first race of the 2019 Isle of Man TT in tenth place in the running order.
At Glen Helen for the first time of asking and Harrison was already closing Cummins down by 2.5 seconds, McGuinness was reportedly visibly slower on the road with Hillier pulling in Hutchinson on the road. On the timesheets it was Dean Harrison with the early lead (by one second) over Peter Hickman with Hillier in third.
By Ballaugh it was Harrison who still carried the one second lead over Hickman whilst Cummins had pegged back Hiller to take over third spot. 196.2mph at Sulby, the fastest speed of the race by that point, went to Harrison who was clearly on an early charge.
At Ramsey and Harrison (second on circuit) was closing down to be almost in the wheeltracks of on-track leader Cummins. On the timesheets, Harrison’s pace equated to a now 1.237s over Hickman but the mountain section of The Mountain Course is a real hunting ground for Hickman and it’s there where Hickman could really start to stretch the legs of the BMW.
At the Bungalow and the gap between Harrison and Hickman was static at around 1.5s. Cummins, Hillier and Dunlop filled the next three timesheets positions.
By the end of lap one and – if anyone doubted the pace this early in TT Race Week – the leader had set his stall out with an impressive 132.48mph from a standing start for Harrison as he crossed the finish line and barrelled down Bray Hill to start lap two. But things were heating up in the scrap for the lead and Hickman clocked a best of 132.34mph across the line at the end of the first lap closing down his rival and the gap between Hickman and Harrison starting to shrink to just 1.008s.
Elsewhere and the attention turned to John McGuinness who rode into the pits at the end of the first lap. Pulling up on the Norton V4 he spoke with his team about some issue on the right hand side of the front of the bike only for the TT-legend to then run into the paddock – reports from pitlane had the issue as an oil pressure light failing on the Norton and sure enough McGuinness was forced out of the first race of TT 2019 as the bike cried enough.
Glen Helen on lap two and Harrison was virtually shadowing Cummins through the section, looking like he was teeing up Manxman Cummins for a pass further along the course. Hickman passed the famous part of the course, widely used as the first time marker, and it became apparent that Harrison – usually quickest in the non-Mountain sections of the course – had indeed extended the lead again to 1.5s over Hickman. Just eight seconds separated the top three men on the timesheets.