Prior to the record breaking, history making action, the entry list for the TT Races of 2016, was shaping up to be truly top, top draw.
Racers/teams returning to Manx shores included the following:
Honda Racing retained the services of 23 times TT winner John McGuinness and Manxman Conor Cummins, Padgetts retained genial New Zealander Bruce Anstey whilst Cameron Donald returned to Wilson Craig Racing.
Norton’s challenge was led by the improving David Johnson, Macau GP winner Peter Hickman switched to the GB Moto Racing run JG Speedfit Kawasaki team.
Reigning Steve Henshaw International Gold Cup Champion Dean Harrison made the surprise move to Silicone Engineering Racing, with his place at Mar Train Racing taken by Dan Kneen.
Gary Johnson, Danny Webb switched to Penz 13 BMW, James Hillier, Lee Johnston, Michael Dunlop remained respectively with Bournemouth Kawasaki Racing, East Coast Racing and Hawk Racing.
For many though the big story from the winter of 2015/2016 was Ian Hutchinson joining the Tyco BMW team. Hutchinson who enjoyed a return to top form at TT 2015 was joined in the TAS Racing ran factory BMW outfit by seven times Duke Road Race Rankings Champion Ryan Farquhar.
Others in strong contention for first class results at TT 2016 included Michael Rutter (Bathams Racing), William Dunlop (MSS Kawasaki), Steve Mercer (Jackson Racing), Ivan Lintin, Martin Jessopp and James Cowton (Cowton Racing by Radcliffe’s).
Added depth to the solo race entries were provided by the likes of Privateers Championship front runners Jamie Coward and Dan Hegarty, Cookstown BE Racing’s Derek Sheils, Alan Bonner, Italian star Stefano Bonetti, Horst Saiger, Michael Sweeney, Derek McGee, Dan Cooper, Sam West, Hudson Kennaugh and Manx GP to TT graduates Rob Hodson and Dave Sellers.
Notable Mountain Course debutants included Performance Racing Achterhoek’s Jochem Van Den Hoek, Brough’s Mike Booth, Southern 100 Supersport winner Seamus Elliott and former European Superstock 1000 Champion Alex Polita.
The Impossible’s Never Not Possible With Michael Dunlop:
Following the irresistible form he showcased at the North West 200, it wasn’t a surprise to see Michael Dunlop making the headlines in terms of the blue riband Superbike class at TT 2016.
The opening big bike encounter saw Dunlop excel and some, as showcased in my race report from nigh on four years ago:
The opening lap at Glen Helen would see Michael Dunlop storm into the race lead by almost two seconds over Ian Hutchinson, with James Hillier holding third position.
By Ballaugh Bridge Dunlop had a 3.606 second over Hutchinson, with Hillier in third been reeled in by Dean Harrison on the Silicone Engineering Racing ZX10R Kawasaki.
Conor Cummins was an early retirement, as was Ian Lougher on the MMX 500 Suter and Cameron Donald on the Wilson Craig Racing CBR 1000 Honda Fireblade.
Dunlop’s lead at Ramsey increased to 3.908 seconds, the 11 times TT winner, was continuing from where he left off during practice week, in determined, world class form.
At the end of lap 1 Michael Dunlop lead by 3.654 seconds over Ian Hutchinson, following a stunning new outright lap record of 133.369 mph, the first ever lap of the Mountain Course, under seventeen minutes.
Ian Hutchinson in second place, was also under the existing lap record, with lap speed of 132.89 mph on the Tyco BMW superbike.
Dean Harrison moved into third place, clocking 130.852 mph, as James Hillier, John McGuinness and Michael Rutter, finalised the top six.
Michael Dunlop’s advantage out front, grew to 4.670 seconds by Glen Helen on lap two, as he began to gain a strong grip on the 2016 RST Superbike TT.
Behind Dunlop and Hutchinson, Dean Harrison was maintaining third place, now in front of John McGuinness, James Hillier was fifth, Michael Rutter held sixth place, whilst David Johnson on the SG5 Norton was impressing, firmly in contention for a top six finish.
Ballaugh Bridge and Ramsey Hairpin saw Dunlop increase his advantage further to 6.782 seconds, Ian Hutchinson second, was just about keeping tabs on his flying fellow BMW Motorrad mounted competitor.
At the Bungalow the race leader’s advantage was increased to 7.512 seconds, Dean Harrison in third place, was now coming under increasing pressure from 23 times TT winner John McGuinness.
Finalisation of lap two, showed that Michael Dunlop’s race lead was now at 7.556 seconds over Ian Hutchinson, following another 133 mph lap and new outright lap record, this time with a storming lap of 133.393 mph.
Dean Harrison third now held only a minor advantage over John McGuinness in fourth place.
Wrapping up the top six was James Hillier and Peter Hickman, gradually upping his pace on the JG Speedfit backed ZX10R Kawasaki.
Following pit stops the only major change within the top six, was John McGuinness moving into third place at Glen Helen. John’s lead over Dean Harrison for third was just over 3.4 seconds.
Out front Michael Dunlop was pulling firmly clear of Ian Hutchinson, upping his lead to a commanding 16.806 seconds by Ramsey Hairpin.
With a lead at the end of lap three of 17.334 seconds, it was obvious that Dunlop, now had control of the race, could Hutchinson fight back?
John McGuinness was third, Dean Harrison was fourth, Peter Hickman slotted into fifth place, as James Hillier dropped back down the leader board, Michael Rutter Bathams SMT Racing S1000RR BMW, remained sixth.
Notable retirements prior to lap four, included William Dunlop on his own teams YZF R1M Yamaha, Davy Morgan, Shaun Anderson and Marco Pagani.
There were no changes out front on lap four, but there was a change in terms of Michael Dunlop’s race advantage, growing to almost 19 seconds.
John McGuinness, was quickest on lap four lapping in excess of 131.5 mph, to remain third but slightly closer to second placed Ian Hutchinson.
Peter Hickman consistently on laps three and four, was chipping away at Dean Harrison in fourth, the gap between them was getting lower and lower.
Michael Rutter remained sixth, David Johnson on the factory Norton, Gary Johnson Penz 13.com BMW, where all enjoying highly productive rides, as was Dan Hegarty, on the RTR Motorcycles Racing ZX10R Kawasaki.
The penultimate lap of the race, would see Michael Dunlop’s lead up to 22.4 seconds over Ian Hutchinson.
Remainder of the fifth lap, saw the lead remain at over twenty two seconds, John McGuinness in third, was looking good for another podium finish.
Peter Hickman now into fourth place, was continuing his rapid progress on the JG Speedfit Kawasaki, Dean Harrison now fifth, was maintaining a top class pace.
Michael Rutter now a fairly static sixth, was showcasing again why many believe he has more TT podium finishes in him.
Onto the sixth and final lap, and Michael Dunlop had the race firmly in the bag, nearest challenger Ian Hutchinson in second, by Ramsey Hairpin, had reduced the race lead to 19.151 seconds.
It was a case of it been mission impossible for Hutchy, as Michael Dunlop crossed the line at the end of lap six, to clinch 2016 RST Superbike TT victory.
It’s Michael’s twelfth TT win, his fourth Superbike TT success, plus he also secured in the process of race victory, a new race record by over a minute.
Ian Hutchinson second, was philosophical about second place, stating there’s more to come for the Pokerstars Senior race.
John McGuinness in third place, was happy with the performance of his Honda Racing Superbike, whilst Peter Hickman clocking 132.465 mph, finished a fine fourth, a new personal best result at the TT Races for Peter.
Finishing a great fifth was Dean Harrison, Dean has for the whole of TT 2016 to date, been in fine form and it was no different in the superbike race today on the Silicone Engineering Racing ZX10R Kawasaki.
Michael Rutter rounded out the top six, on the Bathams SMT Racing S1000RR BMW.
David Johnson lapped to close to 131 mph on lap six, to finish a great seventh, to provide a fabulous result for Norton, the iconic brand is gradually getting itself back near the sharp end at the most famous road race in the world.
Finalising the top ten was Bruce Anstey on the evocative Valvoline Racing by Padgetts Motorcycles RC213V-S Honda, Penz 13.com BMW’s Gary Johnson and Lee Johnston, East Coast Racing BMW.
Additional stand out performances included Dan Hegarty 13th, Derek Sheils a great 16th on the Cookstown BE Racing GSX-R 1000 Suzuki, Michael Sweeney 22nd, David Sellers 27th and Dominic Herbertson 28th.
Michael Booth finished leading newcomer in the six lap encounter, finishing a highly respectable 40th, fellow newcomers Jochem Van Den Hoek 44th and Alex Polita 47th, both enjoyed productive TT race debuts.
The word genius, is often used to many times in sport, but today we’ve seen a pure road racing genius in action, by the name of Michael Dunlop.
No doubt about it in my opinion, he’s re established himself as the world’s leading pure road racer.
For Hawk Racing, victory will taste even sweeter, given they finished in front of the factory backed BMW.
TAS Racing Return To TT Winners Circle:
Whilst the Superbike race was all about Michael Dunlop, the four lap Superstock race stint was all about his respected rival Ian Hutchinson.
Hutchinson who had been in great form all practice week, proved more than a touch formidable for the opposition including fellow S1000RR BMW mounted competitor, Mountain Course lap record holder Dunlop.
My race report on Hutchinson’s 13th TT triumph from 6th June, Monday of TT 2016 race week, reads as follows:
With great conditions, bright sunny weather, the stage was set for a thrilling Royal London 360 Quantum Superstock TT.
The pace setter up to Glen Helen on lap 1 was, Ian Hutchinson on the Tyco BMW leading by 2.494 seconds over Michael Dunlop.
The quickest two riders in TT history, had begun from where they left off in the opening Monster Energy supersport race, another great duel between the pure road racing legends, was very much on the cards.
As lap one went on Hutchinson started to crank it up at front, by Ramsey Hairpin he lead by over five seconds, as Dunlop on his own teams S1000RR BMW, was battling to keep in touch with the Tyco BMW rider.
At Cronk Ny Mona, Hutchinson increased his lead to 9.178 seconds having been 7 seconds clear at the Bungalow.
James Hillier now into third having been sixth at Glen Helen, was on a charge on the Quattro Plant Muc Off ZX10R Kawasaki.
As lap one concluded, Ian Hutchinson now held a firm grip on the race, leading by almost 16 seconds over Michael Dunlop, following a dazzling new superstock TT lap record from a standing start, lapping at 133.098!
James Hillier third was not far in front of Silicone Engineering Racing’s Dean Harrison, just 2.7 seconds behind his Kawasaki compatriot, as Gary Johnson and Lee Johnston rounded out the top six.
There was drama as lap two began, as Michael Dunlop entered the pit lane, retiring with a damaged gear lever.
This promoted James Hillier to second, Dean Harrison to third, Lee Johnston slotted into fourth, moving in front of Michael Rutter and Gary Johnson.
With Dunlop out of the equation, Hutchinson kept up a high quality pace, to move over 32 seconds clear of new in second place James Hillier, at the end of lap two.
Dean Harrison in third place, was just 4.5 seconds in front of East Coast Racing’s Lee Johnston, Michael Rutter, Gary Johnson and John McGuinness where all close together on aggregate time in fifth, sixth and seventh.
John McGuinness on his own teams EMC2 CBR 1000 Honda Fireblade, was gradually putting himself into stand out result contention, moving into fourth at Glen Helen on lap three.
Out front Ian Hutchinson held a 36 second advantage over James Hillier. Dean Harrison in third place, was only 1.333 seconds behind Hillier, whilst Lee Johnston held fifth place with Gary Johnson maintaining sixth.
Hutchinson was doing everything he had to do out front, by Cronk Ny Mona with a 40 second advantage, we all could sense that Hutchy was on the verge of a 13th TT victory.
Leading by 40.360 seconds at the completion of the third lap, Ian Hutchinson was well and truly in full command, whilst a great battle for second was developing between James Hillier and Dean Harrison, only 2.310 seconds covered them.
Lee Johnston retired at Sulby Cross Roads, this promoted Gary Johnson in fifth place as Michael Rutter in sixth, was producing another top class display around the Mountain Course.
With race victory pretty much in the bag, the final lap of the race, was a calm, cool and high class one from Ian Hutchinson.
Under no real pressure from nearest challengers Hillier and Harrison, he crossed the line at the end of the fourth and final lap, to clinch his 13th TT victory.
The victory, was a hugely significant one for TAS Racing who run the Tyco BMW outfit, it was Hector and Philip Neill’s teams first TT win since 2008.
The battle for second was a truly gripping one, in the end it was Dean Harrison on the Silicone Engineering Racing Kawasaki who finished a fine second.
Dean was delighted with the result, Silicone Engineering Racing where overjoyed, at finishing leading Kawasaki runners.
James Hillier, third was happy enough, as he sealed another big bike TT podium finish.
Michael Rutter battled his way to a top draw fourth place finish, going into the race the Bathams SMT Racing rider, was only confident of a top six finish, so fourth position, will be a satisfying result for the four time TT winner.
Finalising the top six was Penz 13.com BMW’s Gary Johnson and John McGuinness who appeared in the closing lap, to encounter issues.
Conor Cummins was a more than creditable seventh as William Dunlop, David Johnson and Jackson Racing’s Steve Mercer wrapped up the top ten finishers.
Dan Hegarty 11th, Ivan Lintin 12th, Horst Saiger 13th, Jamie Coward 14th, Sam West 15th, a great ride from Sam given the obvious difficult circumstances for him and the Ice Valley Racing/4 Anjels team.
Craig Neve finished an excellent 16th, a top class performance from Craig on the Call Mac Scaffolding/Flexi Hydraulic ZX10R Kawasaki.
Hudson Kennaugh 24th, impressed in a race, which saw Ian Hutchinson create another moment of Mountain Course history.
More to follow tomorrow in part two of Road Racing News look back at TT 2016.
Words by Stevie Rial