In the110 years of the Isle of Man TT road races there has never been a shortage of brave hearts that want to come and race, man and machine against time. But this years annual event was dogged by inclement weather which slashed a week’s practice period into a few laps for the ever eager competitors. This resulted in a postponement of the race for the Superbike race until Sunday as the organisers used up their previous race day as a practice day for all concerned.
Along with this came the news that the races were to lose 23-time winner John McGuinness. It was a massive blow. John who was set to ride the new SP2 Fireblade Superbike suffered a horrific crash at the North West 200 race, claiming the engine did not shut off as he rounded a bend at Primrose Corner.
He suffered compound fractures to his right wrist, four broken vertebrae and three broken ribs. The fall left him with one leg currently 50 mm shorter than the other … He was swamped with get well soon wishes. He did however make it to the Island for race week as a spectator.
Michael Dunlop was out on a brand new Suzuki after switching from BMW machinery and the week’s battles were seen to be between him and Ian Hutchinson. Together these two had already won 45 of the Mercurial TT Trophies but according to Dunlop there was much work to be done to get the Suzuki dialled-in to become a winner.
RST Superbike TT
The rain delayed the six lap Superbike race but it was eventually run at record pace in perfect race conditions. Ian Hutchinson snatched victory by a mere five seconds on his BMW 1000 cc machine. The early leader was soon to be a retirement on his new Suzuki, but the race between the BMW, ridden by Peter Hickman, was set to be a long see-saw as one and then the other took the lead in the race. Hutchinson on a Tyco BMW, however, screamed across the finishing line only seconds ahead of Hickman’s Smiths racing machine, with early race leader, Dean Harrison cementing the third place on the podium. Returning to the TT, the works Honda rider, Guy Martin, was also involved in a lap two incident after the bike struck a false neutral in the gearbox and spat him off at Dorians Bend, causing him to run up the kerb. Fortunately, he did not sustain serious injury.
With the Dunlop retirement at Handleys after Michael had posted a 131,135 km/h opening lap, Hutchinson gradually overtook both Hickman and Hiller and passed the leader Dave Johnson on the road, on his super quick Norton. Only 10 seconds covered the top four as late as lap four. Pit stops helped to gain a full ten-second lead over Hickman to claim a prestigious BMW victory with 1, 2 placings.
Sure Sidecar Races
There was a repeat when Ben and Tim Birchall’s week at this year’s TT in the Formula Two events. They scooped both wins. They won the second leg held on Senior Day by a margin of some 26.5 seconds from John Holden and Lee Cain. This was a repeat of the week’s Monday opener. Dave Molyneux and Dan Sale who were on the pace suffered a rib injury over the bumpy section approaching Ramsey which put them out of the second sidecar race.
Crews had to endure more road dampness on opening laps but the Birchall brothers surged over the mountain course at close to 117 mph to lead by over a country mile ahead of Holden’s crew and third place winner Conrad Harrison and Andrew Winkle. All the Formula Two machines run 600cc motors.
360 Quantum Superstock
BMW certainly stamped their mark of the week in the Superstock Event run on the Monday. With Ian Hutchinson (the Bingley Bullet) claiming his second win. The Tyco sponsored rider led from start to finish to win by some 22.4 seconds ahead of Peter Hickman in this four-lap event. While their win was pure joy, it was real elation for Manxman Dan Keen who took third place on the podium. Hutchinson had pitted on the stop box in lap two needing a 130 mph lap to pull away. Michael Dunlop was dicing it out with Michael Rutter for glory. Dunlop took fourth spot, a fraction of a second ahead of Michaels’ Suzuki machine.
SES TT Zero
With the Team Mugen machines oh so fast, this one lap electric bike wonder went to the champion New Zealander, Bruce Anstey. He was never headed and lapped at the amazing time of 117 mph while a recovering Shinden Mugen teammate, Guy Martin, got a well earned second place on the podium. Dean Harrison rounded out the race with third, with the Belgian Sirolea’s race bike at 108 mph. “They were all hoping for a 120 mph lap but maybe next year,” says Anstey, “for the bike has great corner speed now”.
Norton scooped this year’s team prize with the achievement of two top 10 finishes. In both the RST Superbike TT and also in the Pokerstars TT Senior races with Aussie David Johnson on Josh Brookes on board the V4 machine took a big step forward but ran away with the best looking machinery at this year’s races.
All this while the weather once again played its hand with further delays in the race programme. Two things are key now for the running of events: if mist clouds the Snaefell Mountains and the helicopter can’t fly, the race won’t run. Also, current tyre race technology puts a limit of 300 km as an absolute maximum of race distance that can be travelled.
These 650cc twin cylinder race bikes were shown the way home by Micheal Rutter’s incredibly quick Palton machine. With Rutter racking up a fifth TT win on Wednesday, he won at 118 km/h ahead of Peter Hickman who was to go on to four podium wins in the weeks events. Rutter eased ahead of newcomer Martin Jessops Kawasaki with Hickman in third on a second Kawasaki KMR.
Monster Energy Supersport TT
Michael Dunlop’s week started to fall in place as he equalled Mike Hailwood’s 14 TT wins record. The Norton rider scooped his win just 13.2 seconds ahead of James Hillier’s 600cc Kawasaki.
Peter Hickman was enjoying a great week at the races bringing home a Triumph race bike. Dunlop (Yamaha), in this four lap race was very emotional at the post race function claiming a resounding victory after all previous disappointments.
Pokerstars Senior Race
The shortened Senior race of 2017 was won by Michael Dunlop. The race was red flagged on the second lap after Hutchinson took a fall at the 27th milestone and suffered a broken femur. He was eventually airlifted to a specialist hospital in Liverpool. The race was shaping up to be an epic dual between the Bennets Suzuki and Peter Hickmans BMW as only a second separated them all race long. With lap speeds of 132 mph, the gloves were off on the prestige race of the week. After the pitstop, however, Dunlop got bogged down eeking out a six second lead by Ramsey on three. He headed Hickman and Harrison by some 9.2 seconds. This brand new motor bike bike never missed a beat and the team put so much effort in to win this race because everyone remembers who wins the Senior TT race result.
While Peter Hickman and his Smiths machine had themselves gained five podium positions from five starts, Dean Harrison completed the top three for this years race week.
That said the weather played a decisive role on rearranging the race week with constantly changing schedules and revised race days. It was a game of wait and see for one and all at the 2017 TT races.