Nearing three years ago, race week at TT 2016 began in record breaking, history making fashion in the six lap RST Superbike race, which saw Michael Dunlop and Ian Hutchinson battle it out for Mountain Course supremacy.
At the time my report on a race which enthralled, thrilled and captivated thousands on Manx shores and worldwide, was as follows:
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?
Photo by Rod Neill
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 TT.
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.
A great success for Stuart Hicken’s outfit, who have enjoyed quite tremendous roads success over the last three years.
In summing up the 2016 RST Superbike TT, it provided thrilling, enthralling, pulsating, gripping and sensational action around the world famous Mountain Course.
Now a 12 times TT winner, Michael Dunlop proved again today, why he proves the impossible is possible.
Words by Stevie Rial