With great conditions, great weather, an extremely ultra competitive field the stage was set for an intriguing Bennetts Lightweight race, which set off on scheduled time at 2:10 PM.
In nigh on perfect conditions, excluding melting tar at Kerrowmoar, KMR Kawasaki’s Derek McGee moved into an early lead at Glen Helen moving just under half a second clear of Dafabet Devitt Racing’s Ivan Lintin.
Practice week pace setter Michael Dunlop occupied third and was just 1.6 behind Lintin, as Paton team mates Stefano Bonetti, Michael Rutter sandwiched by McAdoo Kawasaki’s James Cowton rounded out the top six.
Onto Ballaugh Bridge and it was all change in the battle for Lightweight class honours, as Lintin surged into the lead, heading McGee by 0.794, Dunlop in third was only a further 1.3 seconds back, whilst Italian TT hero Bonetti remained fourth.
By Ramsey Hairpin, the race lead was up to 2.9 seconds as Lintin began to steadily build up a gap on new nearest pursuer Dunlop, who was now 0.3 in front of McGee.
McGee was back into second at the Bungalow and maintained his impressive placing towards the end of lap 1, which saw twice Lightweight class champion Lintin setting from a standing start a new class lap record of 121.603 mph, hold a lead of plus 5.7 seconds.
Photo by Nick Wheeler
Dunlop in third was only 1 second down on McGee, as Bonetti, Cowton and Rutter held respectively fourth, fifth and sixth.
Notable retirements on lap 1 included the KMR Kawasaki pair of Danny Webb and late replacement for Ian Hutchinson, David Johnson.
With the top three from a standing start all under the now previous lap record, it was no surprise as to why thousands around the Mountain Course were engrossed in a race, which had all the making’s of being an all time TT classic.
SC Project Paton mounted Dunlop back into second at Glen Helen, took the battle to twins specialist Lintin on lap 2, as the pair edged away from KMR Kawasaki’s McGee.
Photo by Nick Wheeler
Lintin despite the increasing pressure from Dunlop, was holding firm out front increasing his lead to 9.613 at Cronk Ny Mona, before major race drama struck.
On course for another class lap record, Lintin’s race came to a surprise halt at Bedstead, ending his chance of making it a hat trick of Lightweight TT titles.
His retirement allowed Dunlop who banked a new Lightweight class lap record of 122.257 mph, to acquire the race lead, but only a narrow one by just four seconds in front of reigning Irish road race Super Twins champion McGee.
2014 Duke Road Race Rankings champion James Cowton was now third, as Rutter, Superstock TT winner Peter Hickman and Paton mainstay Bonetti wrapped up the top six.
Following the scheduled pit stop, the race lead was to change again on lap 3 at Glen Helen as McGee following a great pit stop from the KMR crew went three seconds clear of Dunlop.
With McAdoo Kawasaki’s Cowton a confirmed retirement at Crosby Cross Roads, second quickest racer in TT history Hickman moved into third, just in front of reigning Lightweight class champion Rutter.
Photo by Mark Corlett
By Ramsey Hairpin Dunlop and the SC Project Paton were back in the lead and from here just had enough pace wise, to carry an extremely narrow 1.69 second lead on McGee going into the fourth and final lap.
Dan Cooper’s race concluded at Glen Duff, as the battle for third continued to be lead by Hickman now pulling clear of Paton’s Rutter and Bonetti.
The fourth and final lap saw Michael Dunlop put on an absolute masterclass. Beginning the gap with only a slender 1.69 second lead, by Glen Helen the lead jumped up to 5.489, then 8.508 at Ballaugh Bridge and then even further to 11.787 at Ramsey Hairpin.
Crossing the mountain in his usual rapid, determined manner, it was looking a distinct possibility for a first 123 mph lap by a Super Twins machine at the TT.
As he powered past the chequered flag at the completion of lap four, he had not set a 123 mph lap, but had beat his previous new class lap record of 122.257 mph, lapping at an astonishing 122.75 mph.
Victorious by 14.6 seconds, alongside securing a first Lightweight TT triumph, the Ballymoney racer misunderstood by some, worshipped by many, described regularly as a pure road racing genius, has now gone solely third on the all time TT winners list in front of Dave Molyneux, and just five behind previous team mate John McGuinness, tally of victories.
Race runner up Derek McGee, couldn’t hide his delight in the ensuing press conference stating he was speechless at sealing a well deserved maiden TT rostrum finish.
Peter Hickman on course for his fourth rostrum finish of TT 2018, race ended at Union Mills, which allowed SES TT Zero winner Michael Rutter to wrap up the podium finishers.
Fellow S1-R Paton mounted riders Stefano Bonetti, impressive up coming rising roads star Joe Thompson and ten times TT winner Ian Lougher concluded the top six.
Michael Sweeney battled his way to a more than creditable seventh, as Adam McLean, DP Coldplaning/TC Racing’s Julian Trummer and Dominic Herbertson all hugely impressed in finishing eighth, ninth and tenth.
There was also impressive rides from lead Suzuki runner Barry Furber 12th, Darren Cooper 14th, Forest Dunn 15th and Scarborough’s Nick Anderson 17th.
1 Michael Dunlop
2 Derek McGee
3 Michael Rutter
4 Stefano Bonetti
5 Joe Thompson
6 Ian Lougher
7 Michael Sweeney
8 Adam McLean
9 Julian Trummer
10 Dominic Herbertson
11 John Barton
12 Barry Furber
13 Andy Dudgeon
14 Darren Cooper
15 Forest Dunn
16 Barry Evans
17 Nick Anderson
18 Jim Hodson
19 Timothee Monot
20 Dave Moffitt
21 Jamie Williams
22 Rob Whittall
23 Richard Charlton
24 George Spence
25 Dave Madsen Mygdal
26 Ian Gardner
27 Pete Murray
28 Wayne Axon
29 Rad Hughes
Words by Stevie Rial