There is no greater challenge in motorcycling racing than a superbike race at the Isle of Man TT. Wrestling over 165kg of hulking, brooding machinery around this legendary circuit is a challenge unlike any other.
For today’s RST Superbike race has the potential to be a six lap classic. With stunning weather throughout the week, there’s been plenty of time to get bikes setup, and complete lots of laps on the course, so plenty of riders have already set their fastest ever laps during practice week.
As a result, a group of riders are primed to bring the challenge to Michael Dunlop. The Northern Irishman may be the prohibitive favorite with the bookmakers, but he’s had a difficult practice week.
The switch from the Hawk Racing Suzuki squad to Tyco BMW is one that seems a match made in heaven, but there’s been some difficult first dates.
Dunlop has been jumping between bikes this week – he has a test bike with different forks and other parts – and it was only on Friday night that he completed his first flying laps of the week. Immediately though he was down to pace and the second fastest man of the week with a 132.9mph lap.
The fastest rider of practice week was Dean Harrison, with two 133mph laps, including an unofficial superbike lap record.
As such, the Kawasaki rider is primed and ready to be a big-bike contender. The Bradford native became just the second man to lap the Mountain Course at under 17-minutes from a standing start, and will set off fifth on the road today; just in front of Dunlop.
Manxman Conor Cummins has the honor of leading away the field, and the Padgetts Honda rider has looked fast and confident throughout the week.
With a 131mph lap, he has been slightly slower than his fastest-ever lap, but looks ready to step that up today, and could easily set a 132mph lap. Chasing his first TT-victory, the six-times podium man could stand on the rostrum once again today.
While Harrison hit the headlines on Tuesday, with his sub-17-minute lap, and Dunlop came to the fore on Friday night, Peter Hickman has been slowly building throughout practice.
The British Superbike star has led the way on the superstock bike, and will be ninth on the road in today’s Superbike TT race.
Still chasing his first TT victory, he is out to complete a career slam of international victories to go along with a North West 200, Ulster Grand Prix, and Macau winners trophies.
Ian Hutchinson is looking more and more comfortable on the Honda Fireblade, as he continues to regain his bike fitness following his leg injuries. The 16-times TT winner was 12th fastest in practice, but has found pace every day throughout the week.
Another rider who has been finding pace is Josh Brookes. The former British Superbike champion will be looking for his first ever 131mph lap during the race, as the Norton continues to improve.
The Australian hasn’t shown that pace throughout practice week but with the ninth fastest time of the week he should be a contender for another top ten finish.
Photo: © 2018 Tony Goldsmith / www.tonygoldsmith.net – All Rights Reserved
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