Isle of Man TT 2016: Michael Dunlop breaks lap record to seal dominant RST Superbike victory
Michael Dunlop broke the all-time lap record around the Isle of Man to win the RST Superbike TT, setting a race record as well as the first ever lap under 17 minutes to complete a dominating performance on the week’s opening race.
Dunlop led from start to finish, and broke the TT lap record on the opening lap from a standing start before pushing the Hawk Racing BMW even further to set his fastest speed on the second lap of the race at an average of 133.393mph around the 37.75-mile course.
“The pressure was against us and I thought we were on the back foot,” said Dunlop immediately after the race. “Everyone did their job, a great pit stop from the boys. I wanted another one and that’s what I wanted. I knew I could do it.
“We got away at the start but we didn’t go mad after two laps. We kept plugging away and stayed in the groove. They wanted to pass me on the last lap and I let them. 133mph from a standing start? That’s steady enough!
“The big girl never missed a beat, these boys really did their job.”
McGuinness got the opening race of the week underway as he launched his Honda Fireblade across the track off the start line, drifting wide towards the podium before disappearing on over the horizon on his way towards Bray Hill.
Ian Hutchinson ran in second for the entire six-lap race (www.iomtt.com)
Dunlop was quickly into a lead by Glen Helen, holding a two second advantage over Ian Hutchinson with James Hillier slotting in behind the pair in third. Dunlop stretched the lead throughout the opening lap, although Hutchinson was keeping him honest, and after the Bingley Bullet broke McGuinness’s lap record set last year, Dunlop smashed it to set an opening lap of 133.369mph and record the first ever lap around the Mountain Course inside 17 minutes – with a 3.654 seconds over Hutchinson.
Dunlop went even faster on his second lap, stretching the lead over Hutchinson to over seven seconds as they entered the pits, with Dean Harrison running in third – albeit 38 seconds behind the leader with McGuinness in close company.
McGuinness waved Hutchinson through as the pair left the pits together, with the Morecombe Missile hoping to benefit from following his close friend around the course. The Hawk Racing BMW boys did their bit for Dunlop, with the Northern Irishman’s stop much quicker than Hutchinson’s to stretch the lead to over 15 seconds by Glen Helen on lap three.
McGuinness benefitted from Hutchinson’s tow to leapfrog Harrison and move into third, and at the end of lap three, Hutchinson, McGuinness and Dunlop flashed through the Grandstand line astern, with Dunlop extending his lead again to 17.334 seconds at the halfway point while McGuinness had built an 11 seconds advantage over Harrison to make third his own.
John McGuinness was able to overtake Dean Harrison to take third (www.iomtt.com)
Further back in the field, both Cameron Donald and Conor Cummins retired on lap one with William Dunlop stopping on lap two, while James Hillier saw his good early work – setting two laps above the 130mph mark – undone by a slow third lap to drop him out of the top ten.
One rider who was exceeding all expectations though was David Johnson, with the Norton flying around the course in seventh behind the top three, Harrison, Peter Hickman and Michael Rutter.
Fan favourite Bruce Anstey, who ruffled a few feathers by electing to run the MotoGP-spec Honda RCV213-s, was struggling to compete at the front and despite topping the speed trap on Sulby Straight, he found himself down in ninth, perhaps suffering from the ankle injury he suffered during Thursday’s practice session.
Out at the front, the pace has stabilised as McGuinness and Dunlop followed Hutchinson round, and the 23-time TT winner actually overtook the Tyco BMW to hit the front again and lead the trio into the pits. McGuinness was the quickest over the fourth lap and a rocket stop from the Honda team sent McGuinness out on his way again, with Hutchinson and Dunlop leaving together after slower services.
Dunlop though was proving untouchable as he took a 22.4 second lead into the last lap
McGuinness was charging away at the front on the road, with the clear space allowing him to take 12 seconds out of Dunlop’s and Hutchinson’s lead, whereas Hutchinson was beginning to struggle as Dunlop stretched his lead to over 21 seconds at Glen Helen on lap five.
Dunlop perhaps had grown aware that the pace had dropped, and he flying start to the penultimate lap saw him take a chunk of time out of both Hutchinson and McGuinness.
As Dunlop hit the front on the road at the Bungalow, McGuinness was beginning to slow slightly and Hutchinson was able to pass the veteran Honda rider to cement his second place at the start of the final lap, with the gap between second and third slightly over 30 seconds.
RST Superbike TT results
1. Michael Dunlop (BMW)
2. Ian Hutchinson (BMW) + 19.064s
3. John McGuinness (Honda) + 1.13.239m
4. Peter Hickman (Kawasaki) + 1.30.692m
5. Dean Harrison (Kawasaki) + 1.55.637m
6. Michael Rutter (BMW) + 2.25.943m
7. David Johnson (Norton) + 2.42.171m
8. Bruce Anstey (Honda) + 2.51.677m
9. Gary Johnson (BMW) + 3.02.264m
10. Lee Johnson (BMW) + 3.03.174m
Dunlop though was proving untouchable as he took a 22.4 second lead into the last circuit, and McGuinness dropped off the front two as he appeared to settle for third.
The battle was on though between Harrison and Hickman for fourth, and it was the JG Speedfit Kawasaki man who pulled away on the final lap as he built a gap of nearly 15 seconds at the Ramsey Hairpin, with the TT’s fastest ever newcomer continuing his impressive form on the island to take fourth.
There was no stopping Dunlop out in front though, and despite letting Hutchinson past on the road to take the chequered flag first, Dunlop followed him home to seal his 12th TT victory to move into outright fifth on the all-time winners’ list, just two victories behind TT legend Mike Hailwood. Hutchinson took second to continue his run of six consecutive podium finishes, with McGuinness backing off on the final lap to take a solid third place.