With the sun shining at the Isle of Man TT, the Superstock TT go underway with the fire-breathing superbikes that feature treaded tires and near-showroom specs. That’s right, it’s the RL360 Superstock TT race.
The Superstock TT has been treading on Superbike TT territory for several seasons now, with not very much separating the two bike categories on the course. Chalk this up to the level that production superbikes have achieved, especially with electronics, and the diminish returns that come with horsepower.
With a Saturday’s Superbike TT race showing three big names – Dean Harrison, Peter Hickman, and Michael Dunlop – Monday’s Superstock TT race promised to be a good scrap. As it turned out, TT fans were not disappointed.
Right out of the gate, the drama ensued. Harrison lead through Glen Helen, with Michael Dunlop back by 3.5 seconds. Peter Hickman was lost though, down in 10th place over the course, after a mistake on the brakes early on the course at Braddan.
Once back on the course though, Hickman was on the charge, lapping 6th at Ballaugh, and up to 3rd by Ramsey. The podium was set, but its order was anything but.
Swapping places all the way to the finish line, Harrison would lead all of Lap 1, and the bulk of Lap 2. Hickman’s charge continued though, with the BMW rider taking over for Harrison’s Kawasaki at Cronk-ny-Mona.
The pit stop at the end of Lap 2 (technically the start of Lap 3) helped shuffle the times, proving itself to be the great equalizer.
Before we could asses the damage though, all three riders had lapped under the Superstock TT lap record, with Peter Hickman posting a new superstock record of 134.077 mph – joining the sub-17-minute club in the process.
Through Glen Helen, and well into the start of Lap 3, a new leader emerged, with Michael Dunlop eking ahead of Hickman by half a second – Hickman trailing him by an almost equal margin.
Hickman would halve his gap by Ballaugh though, and then retake the lead from Ramsey, as Harrison slowly faded into third place – his ultimate position.
While Harrison would remain in the hunt, the rest of the race would narrow its focus to Hickman and Dunlop, as the pair took things to the wire.
By the start of Lap 4, it seemed like Dunlop could make a bid for the lead again, slowly dropping tenths of seconds at each sector marker.
At Ramsey, Dunlop trailed by just over a tenth of a second, but that is as close as he would get, losing time on the mountain as Hickman set a sector record from Ramsey to Bungalow.
Ultimately, the race was Hickman’s, which Dunlop had to concede. It was a fair lap to give up though, with Peter Hickman setting a new Superstock TT record on Lap 4, with a 134.403mph lap – nearly the outright course record – which isn’t a bad way to make your first-ever TT race win.
Dean Harrison would round out the podium, having completed an exceptional race. The battle for fourth though is worth a number of its own lines in this report.
Contested by Gary Johnson, Michael Rutter, James Hiller, David Johnson, and Conor Cummins, it would be a race of attrition. Gary Johnson was the early leader, but Conor Cummins was charging up the list.
Rutter held the fourth place seat on the opening lap as well, but faded backwards midway through the second lap. Trailed by Conor Cummins throughout, it seemed that the Manxman would take over, but he retired after Ballaugh on Lap 2.
This left David Johnson, Rutter, and Hillier as the big contenders, and the order wouldn’t sort itself until the start of Lap 3. Though, Gary Johnson would retire in the early part of Lap 3.
Meanwhile, Rutter lost touch around Cronk-ny-Mona on Lap 2, leaving David Johnson and James Hillier to continue their fist-fight. With times tight, Hillier briefly passed Johnson at Ballaugh on Lap 3, but that would be the end of that.
Dropping backwards after Ballaugh, James Hillier would concede 4th place to David Johnson, with his gap increasing throughout the rest of Lap 3.
A tightly contested race, this year’s Superstock TT race had plenty of battles to keep fans entertained, and it featured the first TT podium where all three-finishers had completed a sub-17-minute lap.
A fantastic result in its own right, it is even more astounding that is comes on near-stock machinery.
Photo: © 2018 Tony Goldsmith / www.tonygoldsmith.net – All Rights Reserved
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