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.
Ballaugh for the second time of asking and Harrison was still leading but now with a 4.8s as he put in a massive section from Glen Helen to the famous Bridge and grabbed the advantage over second-place Hickman whilst Cummins held onto third.
By Ramsey it was clear that Hickman was getting a move on, closing the gap down by nearly a second (it was now 4s) to Harrison on the timesheets with Cummins and Harrison virtually together on the road, Harrison in the lead and the local man sitting in second.
At the Bungalow and Hickman was on a massive charge, upping his pace and closing down Harrison’s lead from the 4s at Ramsey to just 0.045s on the Mountain section! Cummins was also playing spoiler to Harrison at this point, moving back past Harrison on the road to lead the action in real time. Harrison was only just ahead of Hickman on the timesheets then, going into the pit-stop at the end of the second lap.
Harrison’s race took a pounding in the second part of the Mountain with Hickman taking over the lead – but not by much. Hicky leading by 0.649s at Crony-ny-Mona.
Into the pits and Harrison clocked a 132.57mph best for lap two but things were swinging even more into Hickman’s favour, the BMW man scoring his own most-rapid lap with a 132.947mph quickest – faster than Harrison’s by nearly 0.5mph. That equated to a big jump in the lead that Hickman now carried over Harrison – up to 1.782s. A hugely important run then for Hickman from Cronk-ny-Mona to the pitlane.
The pitlane shenanigans played into Harrison’s favour though, quicker through the stop and start, Harrison managed to cut the lead back to 0.6s. It was a hectic section of what had been a hectic race up to that point.
Third lap and at Glen Helen Cummins still led Harrison on the road but all eyes were buried on the timesheets to see where Hickman was in comparison to Harrison at the first time marker.
Just half a second split Hickman in first and Harrison in second, Harrison managing to peg back – albeit slightly – Hickman through the more built-up sections of the course.
But that was as far as the riders got in the 2019 Superbike race due to a red flag stoppage after an incident at Snugborough – the result declared at the end of lap two.
Race officials called the result due to the stoppage, giving Peter Hickman his first victory of 2019 on The Island by 1.7s, Harrison his first second place podium finish 7s ahead of Conor Cummins who landed his first third placing of the year’s event.
Speaking from pitlane, Hickman said: “It felt OK. The bike was working good. We put the superbike front end into the bike and the superbike swingarm – essentially it’s a roadbike engine with superstock electrics.
“It took me a while to get my head into it but once I did it was good. Just a shame it’s been cut short and I hope that whoever’s involved in the incident is OK.
“On the mountain I was quite happy with the wind but I was struggling a bit more in the built up areas. It effected me a bit when we were going through the built areas and where there’s a gap in the houses. It blew me about there a bit.”
Harrison added: “I was having a problem with the bike which is why I lost that time. Either i was touching the shifter with my foot or something else was happening, but I’m not sure what it was and the bike kept cutting out.
“It seemed OK out of the pits and got my head down towards Ballaugh but then the race was stopped. In terms of the bike, the handling’s not too bad at all, there’s areas we can improve on a bit but it’s good.”
Conor Cummins said: “I’m happy we’re on the box but I hope everyone’s OK after the red flag. Not the ideal finish but I’ll take it.”
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