After a truly thrilling week of race action, what would the Pokerstars Senior race provide us, 135 mph laps?, a new race winner? a last lap battle? these was just three of multiple possibilities ahead of one of the most anticipated Senior races of recent times.
As in all previous solo races excluding the Lightweight, TT Zero classes, Silicone Engineering Racing’s Dean Harrison powered into a small early lead at Glen Helen of only 1.2 seconds over Peter Hickman.
Michael Dunlop held third only a further second back, as James Hillier, David Johnson and Norton’s Josh Brookes completed the top six.
By Ballaugh Bridge Bradford’s Harrison had increased the race lead to almost five seconds over Hickman, Padgetts Conor Cummins jumped up to third just 0.3 clear of Tyco BMW’s Dunlop, whilst 2013 Lightweight TT champion Hillier race ended early at Westwood.
Photo by Mark Corlett
Onto Ramsey Hairpin and reigning Joey Dunlop Championship winner Hickman was beginning to increase the pressure on Harrison, with the lead reduced to under 2.4 seconds.
Harrison’s lead was trimmed further at the Bungalow to 1.596, which by the end of lap 1 was taken down to 1.4 seconds. 18 times TT winner Dunlop retook third from Cummins, with just 0.437 covering them, Gulf BMW’s Johnson and Norton’s Brookes wrapped up the top six.
Soon though 2015 BSB champion Brookes was up to fifth, as Gulf BMW’s Johnson entered the pits at the end of the opening lap for an unscheduled pit stop, from which ultimately saw him retire from the race.
Lap 2 would see the battle out front between Harrison and Hickman intensify. 5.53 down on Harrison at Ballaugh Bridge, Smiths Racing’s Hickman showing the type of form that secured him a maiden TT success on Monday in the Superstock race, steadily sector by sector reduced the race lead.
By Cronk Ny Mona, he had taken over three seconds out of Harrison’s advantage, we were now firmly witnessing another truly top draw, world class Mountain Course battle.
The gap between them at the completion of lap 2, stood at just 1.419, as both entered the pits for the first of there two scheduled pit stops.
Behind the on top form duo of Harrison and Hickman, Manx star Cummins jostled his way back up to third, by the end of lap three holding an eight second advantage over Tyco BMW’s Dunlop who was surprisingly off the pace.
Following their scheduled pit stops, Harrison courtesy of a top draw pit stop by his Silicone Engineering team, increased his race lead to almost five seconds at Glen Helen.
By Ramsey Hairpin the race lead stood at over eight seconds, as Harrison in spite of yellow flags pulled more time on Hickman.
Photo by Nick Wheeler
Twice Macau GP winner Hickman though was still in strong contention for the race win, and by the Bungalow reduced Harrison’s advantage to just over the six second mark.
Come the finalisation of lap three, the difference between Harrison and Hickman was only 5.8 seconds, former Ulster GP lap record holder Cummins maintained third and was now over ten seconds in front of RST Superbike winner Dunlop.
Lap four saw the pace well and truly jump up a notch, as Hickman determined to add a Senior TT success to his already ultra impressive international roads CV, tenaciously chipped away at Harrison’s lead.
Seven seconds down on his compatriot at Ramsey Hairpin, over the mountain he trimmed the lead down to just over three seconds.
Such was his pace that come the second scheduled pit stop, it was confirmed that at the end of the fourth lap he had set a dazzling new outright lap record of 134.456 mph.
The new outright lap record helped him reduce Harrison’s lead further to 1.4 seconds, it was most definitely race on in the battle to become the newest winner of the much coveted Senior TT.
Despite setting a new outright lap record, Hickman in the battle for race victory still trailed Harrison. His race winning challenge suffered what seemed at the time a bit of blow having dropped around five seconds to the Bradford racer, in the pits.
6.2 seconds down at Glen Helen, great racing all rounder Hickman as on previous laps responded and some to Harrison’s relentless pace, taking his race lead down to around five seconds at Ramsey Hairpin, before reducing it even further to 3.5 seconds at the Bungalow.
By the finalisation of lap five, Harrison’s race lead was only 1.9 seconds! A quite memorable final lap was in prospect.
Cummins in third had pulled a strong gap on Dunlop in the battle for the final spot on the rostrum, whilst Josh Brookes on the SG7 Norton was showing good form maintaining a strong top five placing.
After the consistent run of class lap records, great racing, ten’s of personal best laps, the incredible weather on the Isle of Man, it was fitting that the final lap of TT 2018 would provide one of the most exciting, dramatic and historic in the events history.
Long term race leader Harrison almost six seconds clear of Hickman at Ballaugh Bridge, had for some the Senior race in the bag, but had he?
The answer was 100 percent no as at Ramsey Hairpin Hickman started one of the great TT race comebacks, trimming Harrison’s lead dramatically to only two seconds, it was most definitely race on again!
Incredibly by the Bungalow Hickman had for the first time taken the race lead, moving 0.8 clear, and then at extending the advantage to just over two seconds at Cronk Ny Mona.
The hugely popular Smiths Racing rider would go onto cross the line at the chequered flag at the completion of the sixth and final lap, to wrap up a quite remarkable Pokerstars Senior TT victory.
His amazing final lap of 135.452 mph, yes you heard that right, is not only a new outright TT lap record, but also the fastest pure road racing lap worldwide, making him officially the world’s fastest road racer.
This also makes the Isle of Man TT now the fastest roads meeting worldwide, an accolade held for multiple years by the MCE Insurance Ulster Grand Prix.
Race runner up Dean Harrison also on record breaking pace on lap 6, just over two seconds behind Hickman, stated in the ensuing press conference that he had encountered back markers at the wrong time, but was also extremely gracious in defeat complimenting hugely the exploits of the new Pokerstars Senior TT champion.
Rounding out the top three finishers was a delighted Conor Cummins, who has by a long way been the most competitive racer on 1000cc Honda machinery at TT 2018.
Tyco BMW’s Michael Dunlop fourth place finish was enough for him to regain the Joey Dunlop Championship crown, whilst fifth place finisher Josh Brookes showcased the progress of the SG7 Norton, with an impressive last lap of 131.745 mph.
Gary Johnson ended a challenging TT 2018 campaign in sixth place, Martin Jessopp was a solid seventh, Penz 13 BMW’s Jamie Coward banked eighth, outstanding Mountain Course debutant Davey Todd ninth, result enabled him to become the first TT newcomer to win the coveted Privateers championship.
Photo by Nick Wheeler
Wrapping up the first ten finishers was TAG Racing IRL’s Brian McCormack, whilst other notable performances included Craig Neve 11th, Michael Sweeney 12th, Danny Webb 15th, Andy Dudgeon 16th, Spain’s Raul Torras Martinez 18th and Ian Lougher on the great sounding Suter a very creditable 21st.
1 Peter Hickman
2 Dean Harrison
3 Conor Cummins
4 Michael Dunlop
5 Josh Brookes
6 Gary Johnson
7 Martin Jessopp
8 Jamie Coward
9 Davey Todd
10 Brian McCormack
11 Craig Neve
12 Michael Sweeney
13 Daley Mathison
14 Rob Hodson
15 Danny Webb
16 Andy Dudgeon
17 Stefano Bonetti
18 Raul Torras Martinez
19 Michael Booth
20 Barry Evans
21 Ian Lougher
22 Frank Gallagher
23 Adrian Harrison
24 Julien Toniutti
25 Mark Goodings
26 Michael Evans
27 AJ Venter
28 Dave Hewson
29 Ian Pattinson
30 Barry Furber
31 Davy Morgan
32 Darren Cooper
33 David Jackson
34 Eric Wilson
35 Rhys Hardisty
36 George Spence
37 Xavier Denis
38 Tom Weeden
39 Paul Williams
40 Fabrice Miguet
Words by Stevie Rial