RL360 Superstock TT – 3 laps, 113.19 miles
With a compulsory pit-stop at the end of the first lap for everyone racing in the reduced-from-four-to-three-laps Superstock TT race, the drop down Bray Hill was even more crucial than usual if the fast lads were going to get up to a fast pace early on.
So it was that Conor Cummins lead things away first with Dean Harrison second off the line, Ian Hutchinson third and James Hillier fifth. Sixth to start was Michael Dunlop with Gary Johnson and Michael Rutter making up the next two place, David Johnson in ninth and Peter Hickman away in his favoured tenth place.
At Glen Helen for the first time of asking and straight away it was clear that Harrison was going hard early on, taking over the top of the timesheets by 3.4s ahead of Cummins. On corrected time it was Hickman who set a blistering first sector, leading Harrison by a full 1.6s at the time marker on lap one. Hillier was 1.582 behind Harrison with Dunlop breathing down the neck of Hillier on the timesheets, just 0.029s off third place.
Ballaugh Bridge and Dunlop leapt ahead of Hillier on the clock – 1.6s now separating the pair, a scorching pace by Dunlop early on too. At the sharp end though it was Hickman still in the lead, growing the advantage to 2.320s over Harrison who in turn was 3.770s in hand ahead of Dunlop. Hickman was starting to look unstoppable…
190.6mph at Sulby was Dunlop’s speed, the quickest of the quick men during that opening lap.
As the front runners screamed into Ramsey Hickman had opened up the lead to 3.978s over Harrison, Dean in turn was 4.733s ahead of Dunlop. Hickman looked in full control as the chase up The Mountain began. At The Bungalow Hickman increased his lead by just over three seconds with 7.130s in hand over Harrison as they readied themselves for the compulsory pitstop at the end of the first lap.
Into the pits and Harrison bagged a 130.88mph lap (from a standing start AND with the slow-down for the pitstop!) but Hickman managed to go even better with a stunning 132.025mph (17m 08.806s). James Hillier (fourth) was given a 30s penalty for speeding in pitlane, effectively robbing his chances of fighting back for a podium against Michael Dunlop.
Hickman’s pace might have been jaw-dropping on that opening lap but his pitstop wasn’t as quick as Harrison’s. Dean’s team were polished and rapid in equal measure, winning their man back around 2.5s over their main rival in the pits – an effective boost as the riders headed out for two fast laps in the remaining race. 36s covering the top ten after the first round of pitstops.
Hickman was already scrapping back at Glen Helen on the second lap with 5.812s in the bag ahead of Harrison, Dunlop looking comfortable in third some 11.462s further back but still 2.652s ahead of fourth place David Johnson. By Ballaugh all eyes were on Harrison and Hickman with Dunlop playing the stalking horse role to the fast duo slightly ahead. Indeed, it was Hickman’s increasingly impressive pace pulling even further away with Peter clocking a full 6.855s over Harrison who, in turn, was 13.348s back in third.
So into the Ramsey Hairpin for the second time of asking and another clear run up The Mountain. Harrison was pushing hard, the back wheel of the Kawasaki slewing sideways on the brakes into the uphill left hander. 6.8s at Ballaugh quickly turned into a big 9.096s for Hickman as he appeared under the trees, sliding the rear of the BMW into and out of the crucial corner – for the first time there was a slight chink in the armour of the fastest road rider of all time with Pete having a moment as the bike slid under the throttle, popping him up and out the seat and forcing him to run wider than usual on the exit.
191.32mph this time for Dunlop at the Sulby speed trap, once again the fastest machine in that part of The Mountain Course.
Bungalow is a marker of outright pace over The Mountain climb and Hickman indeed proved this by pulling a further four seconds over Harrison in the section – 13.138s separating the pair. Dunlop held station 14.062s further back in third, adrift on the timesheets but still 3.686s over David Johnson.
Across the line for the start of the only flying lap of the three lap race and whilst Harrison managed a best of 127.22mph (that’s from a pitstop, remember!) there seemed little he could do against Hickman who clocked a 128.13mph in response. The gap between them now extending further to 16.576s. Dunlop looked to be coming into some traffic at the start of the third lap, a hold up for him could be a problem, possibly throwing Michael back into the grasp of David Johnson who was still 3.258s back in fourth.
Final time of asking at Glen Helen and Hickman was even faster – now 18.078s sat between Pete in first and Dean in second but it was David Johnson who had a brilliant section, possibly thanks in part to a problem for Dunlop – DJ taking over third place on the timesheets on now being 0.784s ahead of the MD Racing man. By Ballaugh the leader was 19.849s ahead as he came into his strongest part of the TT course… Dunlop however was closing down Johnson again on the clock, just 0.114s separating third and fourth place man at the famous bridge.
At Ramsey Hickman was 22.183s the good over Dean and Dunlop was equally pushing hard, passing Johnson back again on time to now take back third place by 0.449s in what was a great scrap between the pair.
By The Bungalow the Superstock Race was basically all over bar the shouting, Hickman romped up the mountain climb banging in even more pace ahead of Harrison to be 26.686s in control with 10 miles to go. Dunlop was inching away from Johnson in fourth place too, Michael 0.964s in the advantage.
Without any trouble or drama, it was Peter Hickman who majestically took the win to double up on his day’s tally of TT victories. It was an incredible performance that for the most part didn’t look like anyone could hold a candle to Peter over The Mountain. For the second year in a row, Hickman won the race with a 26s lead.
A five times TT winner, a massive margin to win by and his third win of the week – it seems like there’s little that anyone can do to stop the Peter Hickman express now.
Across the line the last bit of drama played out though as David Johnson managed to get third place back from Dunlop. His first time with the factory Honda, DJ took the last podium spot by 0.208s in the last section. It was his first time on a TT podium.
Speaking from Parc Ferme, Hickman said: “The bike works, the team produce a good bike. I don’t know what to say, I don’t feel like I necessarily have to try that hard on the superstock bike – I just get on it and go.
“From lap two… I don’t want to say I’m cruising… but I am riding around. All credit to the team, to produce a bike like this is down to them. I was doing my own thing and having some fun.
“It was great to ride around here with a buffer and not be biting the screen to try and win.”
Harrison added: “I’ve struggled on this bike the most out of everything I’ve ridden so I’m happy with second here now.
“I came into the pitstop with Conor and left before him, our pitstop was like silk. It was very good.
“I’m looking forward to The Senior tomorrow.”
Johnson, who’s team had the fastest pitstop of all, said: “My guys have been unreal. It’s a handpicked crew by me and we worked our way through it and this is unreal.
“We only just had enough fuel, the bike burped over the line so we just had enough. The guys had it great. That last section, it’s like a short circuit and I’m a short circuit rider so I was pushing hard.”
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