Isle of Man TT: Dunlop the Conqueror
Michael Dunlop took victory in Friday’s Senior TT in a race that was re-started over four laps after Ian Hutchinson’s crash. After retiring from the opening Superbike race last Sunday, Michael Dunlop bounced back in superb fashion in today’s Senior TT to not only take his 15th TT win but also give Suzuki their first ‘big bike’ victory since Cameron Donald in 2008. He also set the fastest ever lap by a Suzuki with his second lap speed of 132.903mph.
The 28-year was struggling in the initial six-lap race and was down in fifth at the end of the opening lap, over six seconds adrift of race leader Peter Hickman. However, with the race being stopped due to the Hutchinson crash at the 27th Milestone, he was able to make changes to his rear suspension and in the four-lap re-start, he never looked back.
Dunlop scorched to a 13 second win over Peter Hickman, who made it five podiums from five races, with Dean Harrison in third place. This was after Bruce Anstey retired at the end of lap two with engine problems. The Ballymoney man had gone the wrong way with his suspension settings in the first race and had been struggling but some tweaks before the re-start saw the Bennetts Suzuki flying from the first sector and Dunlop was never headed.
A fastest lap of 132.903mph on lap two looked to have broken Hickman’s charge but the Smith’s BMW man responded with his own 132.254 mph but he just didn’t have enough pace to challenge Dunlop.
Harrison put in a 132.019 on his fourth lap to cap off his second Superbike podium of the week on the Silicone Kawasaki while James Hiller changed his rear shock before the re-start and took fourth place.
Michael Rutter ended his TT fortnight with fifth place while Josh Brookes won the battle of the Nortons in sixth place, heading team-mate David Johnson in seventh by just 2.678 seconds after four laps.
Dunlop led at Glen Helen on lap one by just 0.642 seconds from Anstey with Harrison in third place, the top six covered by less than three seconds. At Ballaugh, Dunlop extended his lead to 1.679 seconds as Hickman moved into second place at Ramsey and Conor Cummins taking sixth from Hillier.
With a 132.292mph opening lap, Dunlop was 4.268 seconds ahead at the Grandstand with the next three in the 131mph bracket and Rutter in fifth on a 130.367 mph. Hillier swapped places with Cummins for sixth at Glen Helen on lap two and the order was then set until Anstey dropped out.
Cummins was promoted sixth but that lasted until Glen Helen on lap three when Brookes passed both the Manxman and Johnson, and from then on it was a battle of the Nortons. Brookes held it until Ballaugh Bridge on lap four when Johnson went past with a fast sector but Brookes pulled it back to 0.327 seconds at Ramsey. From there the Bringelly man took charge on the run to the Bungalow, opening a gap to just under a a second before recording his first 130mph lap to secure sixth. The 130.883mph was also Norton’s quickest ever at the TT.
Cummins ended in eighth place with Martin Jessopp passing William Dunlop for ninth place late on. Jamie Coward took 11th with Dan Kneen 12th. Daley Mathison, Dan Hegarty and James Cowton completed the top 15.
At the post race press conference Michael was in a thoughtful mood when discussing his race.
“Even after race one I was confident that we could do six laps. After race one 1 discovered where the problem was. These things happen, you can’t point fingers, but I did.
We’ve made the impossible possible,” he said afterwards. “Some people said coming to the TT with a brand new motorbike was a mistake but we’ve proven them wrong. Stuart and Steve (Hicken) said it could be done but it was going to be a hard task and with parts arriving late we were up against it. We were getting new parts and changing things all the time and the rear suspension wasn’t right in the first part of the race so were able to change things for the second and never looked back.
The bike’s completely different to what I was riding at the NW200 and we backed the power off a bit here whilst we also started with a new chassis for the Superbike race. There’s plenty more development that can be done to take us to the next page but winning on different manufacturers ticks my boxes. Everyone wants to win the senior, it’s the one everyone remembers, and to move on to 15 wins is something special.”
Images by Glynne Lewis & Hedley Whewell
Words by John Mushet