Road racing

Fifteen things I’ve learnt from the TT…

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01) Michael Dunlop can ride anything fast around the Rock. Winning on the new Suzuki? Some achievement that…
02) The Gooseneck is the best spot I’ve watched from yet. So close you can see the riders eyes. And the lines between the quicker and slower riders is fascinating
03) Brandywell is up there too…can hear them for miles, and watching the fast boys hug the very edge of the tarmac before they tip left is intoxicating
04) The howl from Bruce Anstey’s RCV is earbleedingly loud. That noise is just beautiful
05) Josh Brookes is the most stylish rider around the Mountain course
06) The French are still the masters of the suicide move and love nothing better than just stopping at the side of the road in a large group with no indication whatsoever
07) But they’re not as bad as the Italians who are fast through the 30s and then slow as through the Nationals
08) Never believe the grizzled rider talking loudly to anyone who will listen. ‘My old R1 was better…used to rev to 24,000 and fly’. Yeah, whatever
09) Strange things really do happen on the Rock. Like when you talk via FB to an American with an Aprilia, a mate of a mate, and then find yourself stood right next to him, unplanned, at Lezayre
10) The Slock road may be the best bit of tarmac on the Island
11) The rope used to secure the bikes on the Manannan must be the strongest in the world. The crossing home was rough, really rough, and my Factory never moved an inch
12) The steak at the Forge is to die for….cooked rare of course
13) But the peanut butter cheesecake is out of this world. Quite simply the best dessert know to man
14) Never, ever be the man who orders a table for one at the Raj. And never, ever admit to being that man when the waitress comes out and asks for you in front of a group of drunknen, hungry bikers. Oh the shame 😉
15) There’s always one biker who thinks he can beat the queue and do a three-point turn on the Mezzanine deck of the boat when you dock in Liverpool. You can’t. Never, ever be that man, eh Yag?

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Road racing – Dunlop dominates shortened Senior

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Michael Dunlop won a shortened Senior TT race at the 2017 Isle of Man TT Races, with the Bennetts Suzuki rider taking his 15th TT victory by 13.3s from Peter Hickman (Smiths Racing BMW) and Dean Harrison (Silicone Engineering Kawasaki).

The race was restarted over four laps after the original race was red flagged on the second lap due to an incident involving 16-time TT winner Ian Hutchinson at the 27th Milestone. The Tyco BMW rider was conscious but was taken to hospital by airmed where it was later confirmed that he had suffered a fractured femur.

The race had been shaping up to be an epic with just 0.18s between Hickman and Hutchinson and Harrison only 1.2s further back in third but, eventually getting underway at 5.15pm, Dunlop led the restarted race through Glen Helen on the opening lap, with a 1.5s advantage over Bruce Anstey. Harrison was a further 0.9s back in third with Hickman, Michael Rutter and James Hillier completing the top six, the last two getting a second bite of the cherry having experienced problems in the first start.

Dunlop increased his lead through Ramsey slightly to 2s but Hickman was up to second ahead of Anstey who in turn held a 0.2s advantage over Harrison with Rutter still in fifth but with Conor Cummins now up to sixth at the expense of Hillier.

Dunlop added a further second to his lead by the time he reached the Bungalow and an opening lap speed of 132.292mph gave him a 4.2s lead over Hickman who in turn was 3.2s clear of Anstey. Harrison, Rutter and Cummins were holding station in fourth to sixth but Josh Brookes was on the move, going from 12th at Ramsey to eighth at the Grandstand.

At Glen Helen on lap 2 Dunlop had increased his lead by two more seconds and Harrison was now up to third with Anstey dropping back to fourth despite leading on the road and having a clear track. Rutter was still fifth but Hillier had moved back ahead of Cummins for sixth.

By Ramsey, Dunlop was still leading by 6s as him and Hickman practically matched each other every mile. Harrison was losing a bit of time in third but he was pulling away from Anstey who was extending his advantage over Rutter. Hillier was still sixth but just 2.4s covered him, Cummins and Brookes.

Coming into the pits at the end of the lap and Dunlop’s lead was now 9.2s after lapping at 132.903mph with Hickman in second and Harrison third, the latter having lapped at 131.838mph. Anstey was out though at Bedstead with the top six now completed by Rutter, Hillier and Cummins. Brookes was up to seventh having done his first 130mph+ lap around the Mountain Course at 130.551mph.

The lead was down slightly at Glen Helen on lap three to 7.7s as Hillier took over fourth from Rutter with Brookes moving up to sixth and by Ballaugh, Hickman had reduced the deficit to Dunlop further to 7.3s. However, through Ramsey for the third time and the Northern Irishman had got the gap back up to 8.5s.

Indeed, going into the fourth and final lap, the 28-year old was 10.6s clear of Hickman and he duly came home for his 15th TT win, his eventual winning margin being 13.3s.

Hickman made it five podiums from five starts with Harrison repeating his third place finish from Sunday’s RST Superbike race, aided by his first ever 132mph lap on lap four. Hillier and Rutter ended their strong weeks in fourth and fifth, the gap between the duo just 0.64s at the chequered flag.

The battle for sixth also went all the way to the end with Brookes, who lapped at 130.883mph fourth time around edging out Norton team-mate David Johnson. Cummins, Martin Jessopp, who recorded his first 130mph lap, and William Dunlop completed the top ten.

The results meant that Hickman won the Joey Dunlop Championship with 76 points based on cumulative results from the RST Superbike, Monster Energy Supersport, RL360 Quantum Superstock and PokerStars Senior TT Races with Hutchinson second (61) and Dunlop third (60).

Jamie Coward was the first privateer home in an excellent 11th place with Daley Mathison next home in 13th but Horst Saiger’s 18th saw him clinch the TT Privateer’s Championship. He finished with 71 points with Coward in second on 63.

Road racing – Martin refuses to race new Fireblade in Senior

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In a move that surprises nobody, Guy Martin has refused to race the new Fireblade in this year’s Senior TT race.

The maverick Lincolnshire rider suffered a big crash after finding a ‘box full of neutrals’ on the racebike earlier in the week, a move which clearly left Martin visibly shook up.

A normally vocal Martin was unusually quiet following the incident, towing the official Honda line and allowing Honda Racing manager Jonny Twelvetrees to do the talking.

The island rumour mill was rife with report that the team had packed up and gone home, but that speculation proved to be unfounded, and instead the gossip focused on whether Martin would race or not.

And today Martin revealed his hand: “I came back to the TT this year to race and try to win with Honda Racing. I’ve done loads of testing and the team have been flat out, before we got here and at the event. But we’re not doing the times needed to be competitive here, we need more time to set up the bike and doing six laps will not achieve what we set out to do and I’ve always reckoned this is not the place to be out riding just to make up the numbers, so as a team we agreed it wasn’t right competing in the Senior TT. With the weather and my crash I’ve done plenty of tea drinking and dog walking.”

His team manager Jonny Twelvetrees revealed that the bike was ready, and that the decision not to race was martin’s. He said: “We’re disappointed not to be taking part in today’s Senior TT, a decision that is ultimately due to a lack of track time for Guy on the Fireblade. We came here to race and everyone in the team – who have worked extremely hard over the last few months – was looking forward to seeing what the new bike could do. Guy informed me that he wouldn’t race in the Senior, which is a tough decision to make but one I can understand given the lack of practice we’ve had.

“The good news is that Guy has told me that even though the TT hasn’t worked out, he’s keen to take part in the Southern 100 next month and try to get the most from the Fireblade there.”

Road racing – Dunlop wins Supersport Race One and takes 14th TT victory

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Michael Dunlop took his 14th Isle of Man TT victory after winning the four-lap Supersport race by 13.2 seconds from James Hillier.

The Northern Ireland rider overhauled Hillier half way round the first lap but it was only on the final lap that he pulled clear as he took his first 600cc win since 2014. Peter Hickman took third for his second TT podium in as many days and set the fastest lap of the race on the final lap at 126.848mph.

Overnight conditions led to a delay of just over two hours 15 minutes but the race finally got underway shortly after 1pm with riders warned of damp patches at Ramsey Hairpin, the Nook and Governor’s Dip. And, as in Sunday’s Superbike race, Hillier on the JG Speedfit Kawasaki was again quickest on the first nine mile run to Glen Helen.

His advantage over William Dunlop (Caffrey International Yamaha) was only 0.4s with Michael Dunlop (MD Racing Yamaha) just 0.01s behind his brother. Gary Johnson, Dean Harrison and Peter Hickman completed the top six with Sunday’s Superbike TT winner Ian Hutchinson back in seventh.

By Ramsey Hairpin, Dunlop had taken over the lead but it was still extremely tight – his advantage over Hillier just 0.09s. William Dunlop was a further 1.5s back in third as Johnson, Harrison and Hickman held onto their top six positions.

Hillier had re-taken the lead by the time the riders swept through the Bungalow and an opening lap of 124.743mph gave him a slender 0.397s lead over Michael Dunlop as Harrison moved up to third. William Dunlop dropped back to fourth with Johnson in fifth and Hutchinson moving up to sixth as 9.6s covered the top six.

However, by Glen Helen on lap two, Dunlop was 1.8s clear of Hillier with William Dunlop now up to third after Harrison retired at Ballacraine with a broken gear lever. That promoted Johnson up to fourth, Hutchinson fifth and Hickman sixth.

Through Ramsey second time around and Dunlop had eked out his advantage to 3.2s with brother William still in third but now 10s behind Hillier. Hickman (Trooper Beer Triumph) had overhauled Hutchinson for fourth while Johnson was only 0.1s behind the McAMS Yamaha rider in sixth.

At half race distance, and coming into the pits for fuel, Dunlop’s lead was down to 2.4s with a second lap speed of 126.015mph and it now looked a two-horse race between him and Hillier with William Dunlop now a further 15.8s adrift in third.

Hickman had closed to within 4.5s as Hutchinson remained in fifth. Dan Kneen was sixth coming into the pits but a 60s penalty, for going down pit lane in excess of 90kmh, dropped him way down the order.

Jamie Coward’s good run came to an end when he retired while eighth but at Glen Helen on the third lap, Hillier had reduced Dunlop’s lead to 1.8s while William Dunlop had pulled back an extra second over Hickman.

Dunlop had an excellent run from Glen Helen to Ballaugh, doubling his lead and by Ramsey, had increased it further still to 5.9s. As his lead was extending, the fight for the final podium position was intensifying and Hickman had nosed ahead of William Dunlop as they started their final lap.

The final 37.73 miles around the Mountain Course saw Dunlop finally pull clear and he eventually took the chequered flag by 13.2s. Hillier took his tenth TT podium in second with Hickman having another excellent ride and retaining third.

William Dunlop had to settle for fourth with Ian Hutchinson an unusually distant fifth after dominating the class in both 2015 and 2016 – his run of 11 successive podium finishes ending. Johnson completed the top six ahead of Bruce Anstey. Kneen fought his way back up to eighth as Conor Cummins and James Cowton rounded out the top ten.

The results mean that Hutchinson and Hickman are now tied at the top of the Joey Dunlop TT Championship on 36 points with Hillier only three points behind in third.

Road racing – Hutchinson and Anstey top of the pile in practice

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Conditions were finally perfect for qualifying at the 2017 Isle of Man races, fuelled by Monster Energy, and Ian Hutchinson and Bruce Anstey set the pace with both averaging laps of over 129mph.

Hutchinson’s lap of 129.535mph came on his Superstock BMW after stopping at Governor’s Bridge on his opening lap on the Superbike with Anstey posting a time of 129.212mph on the RC213-VS Padgetts Honda.

Hutchinson was first to leave the line at 6.23pm alongside Peter Hickman on the Smiths Racing Superstock BMW. Gary Johnson and James Hillier, Steve Mercer and Lee Johnston and Dan Kneen and Michael Dunlop quickly followed the opening pair down Glencrutchery Road.

Kneen was reported to have stopped at Quarter Bridge but he was soon back out on his Superstock mount while the Norton pairing of David Johnson and Josh Brookes were out of luck, retiring at the Bottom of Barregarrow and Ballaugh respectively.

Hickman was first to complete a lap with 128.028mph but Hutchinson had stopped at Governor’s. Johnson and Hillier had no such problems, and both were above the 127mph mark. Dunlop was quickest on the lap though with an opening lap of 128.576mph with Hillier, Conor Cummins, Michael Rutter, Dean Harrison and Bruce Anstey also over 127mph.

On the second lap Hickman was slightly slower at 127.63mph but Anstey had upped the pace considerably to 129.212mph, which made him the evening’s quickest Superbike. Mercer and Rutter were over 125mph but further back on the road, Hutchinson was getting back in the groove and sure enough a lap of 129.535mph not only made him the fastest Superstock machine but also the fastest on the night.

Kneen’s good week in the Superstock class continued with a lap of 127.23mph but this was upstaged on the third lap by Rutter and Harrison who lapped at 128.588mph and 128.477mph respectively to go second and third in the Superstock class behind Hutchinson.

Meanwhile, the newcomers were also making good progress with Adam McLean putting in a superb lap at 119.06mph. Paul Jordan jumped up to 114.88mph with Joey Thompson on 112.91mph.

Just after 7.10pm, the 1000cc machines were short lapped and the course became the sole domain of the Supersport and Lightweight machines. Hutchinson set the initial pace on the McAMS Yamaha at 123.19mph but this was bettered by Harrison on the Silicone Engineering Kawasaki with a speed of 123.323mph.

However, towards the end of the session, Michael Dunlop just edged out Harrison with a speed of 123.325mph but the Bradford rider wasn’t to be outdone and a 124.35mph lap sent him to the top of the leaderboard. Hillier slotted into fourth at 122.93 with Hickman, Cummins, Jamie Coward, William Dunlop, Anstey and Kneen also above 121mph.

In the Lightweight class, Italian Stefano Bonetti set the fastest lap of the week to date with a speed of 115.69mph on the Paton with Rutter, also on a Paton, on 114.28mph. Hickman on the KMR/IEG Kawasaki, was second with a lap of 114.86mph from Dan Cooper (114.79) and Lee Johnston (114.73).

Steve Mercer was reported to have had an accident at the 11th milestone and was taken by airmed to Nobles with what were initially described as minor injuries while Frank Gallagher suffered broken teeth at the Gooseneck and was taken back to the paddock in a course car.

After a short delay due to the incidents in the solo’s session, the Formula Two Sidecars were back out on the Mountain Course at 8.10pm with Ben and Tom Birchall leading the field away only to retire at Crosby.

That gave Dave Molyneux/Dan Sayle a clear road and their opening lap of 113.001mph was just over 1mph quicker than Tim Reeves/Mark Wilkes on 111.999mph. Karl Bennett/Maxime Vasseur (109.51), Alan Founds/Jake Lowther (109.04), Lewis Blackstock/Patrick Rosney (107.95) and Estelle Leblond/Melanie Farnier (106.59).

Second time around and the leading duo both upped their pace but Molyneux/Sayle held onto the top spot with the fastest lap of the week at 114.74mph. Reeves/Wilkes weren’t too far behind though and improved to 114.35mph, the fastest ever lap by a newcomer passenger albeit unofficially. John Holden/Lee Cain got a clear run on their second lap with a speed of 112.085mph putting them third quickest.

Some of the TT Zero machines opted for an early look at the track at the end of the evening and the Mugen pair of Anstey (109.520) and Martin (108.413) were predictably quickest.

Road racing – TT 2017 is go!

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After a frustrating and wet start to the 2017 Isle of Man TT races, qualifying finally got underway on Tuesday evening and last year’s headline makers – Ian Hutchinson and Michael Dunlop – immediately took up where they left off last year, setting the pace with 125mph+ laps.

Intermittent afternoon rain resulted in a number of damp patches around the 37.73-mile course, most notably at Greeba, on the approach to Glen Helen and in Governor’s Dip, but conditions were otherwise good with bright sunshine and blue skies at the start and finish of the session. It was a prompt start too as the three newcomers – Adam McLean, Paul Jordan and Joey Thompson – headed off down Glencrutchery Road slightly before the 6.20pm start.

After the sidecar newcomers left the line for their speed controlled lap, there was a slight gap before the session proper fired into life with Bruce Anstey on the Padgetts Honda first away just before 6.35pm with James Hillier, Ian Hutchinson, Josh Brookes and Lee Johnston on their Supersport mounts following the Kiwi rider down Glencrutchery Road.

Ivan Lintin, Peter Hickman and Michael Rutter were also among the early starters on their Lightweight machines while the returning Guy Martin set off slightly later on his Supersport Honda as he got his first taste of the Mountain Course on closed roads since the 2015 Senior TT.

Hutchinson, on the McAMS Yamaha, was first to complete a lap at 118.845mph with Michael Dunlop second across the line and quickest on the opening lap of TT2017 at 120.371mph. Gary Johnson was also above the 120mph mark at 120.311mph, just over half a second slower than Dunlop.

Hutchinson’s lap made him third quickest ahead of Dean Harrison and Jamie Coward (both 118.160), Hillier (117.884) and Conor Cummins (117.673). Martin’s first lap was a solid 115.808mph with Brookes back on 108.171mph. Meanwhile, Dan Kneen was reported as having stopped at Cronk y Voddy although he was able to proceed.

Second time out and Hutchinson and Dunlop both lapped in excess of 121mph, at 121.147 and 121.020 respectively. Anstey and Hillier were next with 119.794 and 119.776 respectively while Johnson was slightly slower on his second lap at 119.341. Martin improved to 117.092mph. McLean was the fastest newcomer with a fastest lap of 112.89mph.

Rutter was quickest in the Lightweight class with a speed of 113.946 on the Paton from Lintin (113.856) with Dan Cooper, Hickman and Stefano Bonetti all inside the 111mph lap barrier.

At 7.10pm it was the turn of the 1000cc machines with David Johnson first away on the Norton. The Aussie hasn’t got a Supersport bike at his disposal so waited slightly longer than other riders for his first laps of 2017.

Steve Mercer lapped at 120.906mph with Hillier (120.986) and Rutter (120.986) slightly quicker but it was that man Dunlop who was laying an early marker down on the Bennetts Suzuki and a speed of 125.680mph sent him comfortably to the top of the leaderboard.

Hutchinson cruised across the line with a lap of 122.704mph but this was only good enough for fourth as Dan Kneen slotted into second on the Penz13.com BMW with a fine lap of 124.642mph. Dean Harrison (122.853) moved up to third with Peter Hickman (121.472) and Lee Johnston (121.322) completing the top six while Guy Martin’s opening lap on the Superbike saw him post a speed of 118.739mph.

There were changes later in the session though and although Dunlop broke the 125mph barrier once more, Hutchinson took the first night honours with the fastest lap on the night with a speed of 125.839mph. Hickman (124.093) jumped up to fourth although Rutter’s lap of 124.117mph made him quickest in the Superstock class from Anstey (123.722).

Harrison looked like he would make a significant impression but he retired at the Mountain Box while Martin broke the 120mph barrier with a speed of (120.018).

Today’s qualify session is scheduled to get away at 18.20 (Superbikes, Superstock, Supersport, Newcomers (ex Lightweight) to 19.20 with Supersport, Lightweight and Newcomers all classes away from 19.20 to 19.50.

Road racing – jammed throttle costs McGuinness and Honda dear at NW200

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A stuck throttle saw John McGuinness lose control of his Fireblade at the NW200, with the veteran crashing out of the Superbike practice session and breaking his leg in the process.

The technical gremlin struck as McGuinness entered Primrose corner, and the 43-year-old was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital with a suspected broken right leg.

He has since had his tib and fib plated and will miss this year’s Isle of Man TT.

The crash has also played havoc with Guy Martin’s pre-TT preparations. The Lincolnshire maverick was using the NW200 as a practice for the TT, but his Honda Racing team withdrew Martin from the Superstock race on safety grounds.

The news marked a miserable opening to the NW200 for Honda – Bruce Anstey also withdrew from the Superstock race as ‘he wasn’t comfortable on the bike’.

Road racing – Martin gels with new Honda CBR1000RR SP2

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Lincolnshire road racing maverick Guy Martin has had his first taste of the new CBR1000RR SP2 as he continues his preparations for his return to road racing with the factory backed Honda Racing outfit.

The Kirmington lad joined team-mate John McGuinness for the shakedown at Castle Combe, and while Martin seemed to gel with the new Fireblade, an impressive feat considering he has switched rubber from Metzeler to Dunlop, McGuinness suffered a broken thumb after crashing on the second day of testing.

Honda Racing boss Neil Tuxworth said: “The bikes arrived later than expected and good progress is being made getting them ready to race. Considering the mechanics were still working on them the night before the test we are very happy with where we are.

“With the road bikes running kit ignition they are easier to set up than the BSB racebikes which run on Motech systems. We will come back to Castle Combe for another test in a few weeks’ time and that will be important as both bikes will be running full spec.”

 

Road racing – Hickman and Webb join KMR Kawasaki squad

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KMR Kawasaki will have a four-man team for this year’s Lightweight TT race with Peter Hickman and Danny Webb joining Lee Johnston and Hudson Kennaugh in Ryan Farquhar’s team.

The quartet will all ride identically-prepared ER6 650cc Kawasaki’s in the four-lap race as triple TT winner Farquhar goes all out to claim victory in the race he won himself back in 2012.

Hickman will be making his debut in the race having withdrawn last year after being scheduled to ride the John Burrows BEE Cookstown Kawasaki and will be among the pre-race favourites, as will team-mate Johnston. He previously rode for Farquhar’s team at the 2015 Isle of Man TT and, after lapping at close to 119mph, was lying in a podium position before retiring on the final lap.

Webb will be making his fourth successive appearance in the race – all of which have been for Farquhar’s team. His debut in 2014 saw him finish in a credible 14th place and he went quicker still in 2015, lapping in excess of 115mph on his way to claiming an excellent tenth place and his first silver replica.

South African Kennaugh competed in the Lightweight TT race in 2015 where he was running on the edge of the top ten before a spill at Braddan Bridge in the closing stages ended his race.

With Johnston and Hickman expected to be challenging for the race win and Webb and Kennaugh strong candidates for top ten positions, it promises to be an exciting race for KMR Kawasaki and while Farquhar is naturally disappointed not to be riding himself, he’s excited about his team’s prospects.

 

Road racing – double TT winner Gary Johnson to run own team for 2017

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Double Supersport TT race winner Gary Johnson will run his own team at this year’s TT.

The Lincolnshire lad, who is still searching for a title sponsor, will run the all-new GSX-R Suzuki in the Superbike, Senior and Superstock races, and will continue to campaign Triumphs in the two Supersport races having purchased the East Coast Construction bikes used by Lee Johnston in 2016.

Johnson said: “I’m feeling as strong as I’ve felt over the last few years and although it’s a massive undertaking to run my own team, I’m really focused on the job ahead and determined to make my mark this year. I’ve got a great bunch of lads supporting me and I’m looking forward to giving it a good go this year.”

A front-runner now for a decade, Johnson took victory in the opening Supersport race in 2014 for the Smiths Racing Triumph team, adding to his win in the second 600cc encounter in 2011.

The 36-year old, who made his Mountain Course debut in 2007, has four more podiums to his name, the most recent of which came in the first Supersport race in 2015 when riding for Mar-Train Racing Yamaha. He has also stood on the podium in the 2009 Senior TT, 2011 Superbike TT and the 2014 Superstock race.

Last year saw him enjoy another successful week on the Island, taking fourth in the Lightweight and fifth in the Superstock races, and he now has 30 silver and four bronze replicas in his collection.

Riding the Penz13.com BMW, 2016 saw Johnson set a new personal best lap of the 37.73-mile course with a speed of 130.945mph in the Senior, which currently makes him the 12thfastest rider of all time around the Mountain Course.