Today saw the 96th running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, with riders and drivers once again racing to the clouds, just outside Colorado Springs. This year’s race was framed as Ducati vs. KTM, with the Australian claiming the outright record at Pikes Peak, after Chris Fillmore took his KTM 1290 Super Duke R up to the summit in 9:49.625. Looking to reclaim its crown, Ducati came back to Pikes Peak after a short hiatus, enlisting the help of Carlin Dunne (of A&R fame) and Codie Vahsholtz. The duo would square off against Cycle News test editor Rennie Scaysbrook, who would ride again on his KTM 1290 Super Duke R, while Chris Fillmore would take on the middleweight class with a KTM 790 Duke, in a quest to post a sub-10 minute time on the smaller bike.
If you ask the racers at the Isle of Man TT which of the nine races they would most like to win, the Senior TT is always the answer. They call it the “blue ribbon” event, and that is because it features the fastest bikes on the grid, racing over a grueling six laps – it also has the largest trophy.
With the TT fortnight acting like a crescendo to Friday’s race, the Senior TT is final cacophony of noise at the Isle of Man, and today’s race was the epitome of that notion.
Once again, the weather smiled upon this tiny island in the Irish Sea, as it has all fortnight. This not only meant a day for perfect racing, but it also meant that racers had two weeks of honing their craft and their machines for the Senior TT race.
Lap times were going to drop; records were going to be broken, and benchmarks were going to be set, which is exactly what you should expect from the Senior TT.
All this being said, I still had my reservations this morning about publishing a story where Dean Harrison said that a 135 mph lap time was a necessity if he wanted to win the Senior TT. Just a few years ago, 135 mph seemed unthinkable. Two weeks ago even, a 135 mph lap seemed too far away.
My apprehension seems to have been unnecessary though, but even that wasn’t immediately clear at the start of The Senior.
On Saturday during the RST Superbike race, Dean Harrison smashed the outright Isle of Man TT lap record with a 134.432 mph lap of Mountain Course. It was the culmination of a long apprenticeship on the roads for the Bradford rider, and having claimed a second career TT victory this week, he’ll be out to impress once again during the Senior TT on Friday. Road racing is in his blood, his father Conrad is a sidecar race-winner, but for Dean the challenge has been to gain the experience to show what he can do on the 37-mile long circuit. That experience has been taking place on the roads, at home studying videos, and racing in the British Superbike Championship to understand more about what it takes to reach the limit of his Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR.
After two years of stagnation, 2018 was do or die for the TT Zero electric race in terms of forward progress. Before the race even started, the race saw some drama, with Team Mugen’s three-bike strategy having to be rethinked due to news from John McGuinness and Bruce Anstey.
As such, Mugen ultimately would field a two-man team, with Michael Rutter and Lee Johnston on the helm of the Mugen Shinden Nana.
In total, only seven entries would lineup on Glencrutchery road for the TT Zero race, with all eyes wondering if we would finally see a 120 mph lap from the electric bikes.
The sign at the starting line said “conditions excellent” as the Isle of Man provided another perfect arena for motorcycle racing, as Race 2 of the Supersport TT got underway.
With Michael Dunlop setting a 129 mph lap during Race 1, conversations already started about whether we would see a 130 mph lap from the supersport machines, an almost crazy average lap speed to consider from the 600cc machines.
While we wouldn’t see the record books change that entry today, we did see an eventful Supersport TT Race 2 at the Isle of Man TT.
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.
Triumph Motorcycles is celebrating what it is calling its best sales year ever in North America, boasting a 21% gain on sales in 2016 over the previous year, and for the first time ever, clearing over 13,000 units sold.
“There is no greater testament to the tireless work and outstanding Brand representation of our dealer partners than seeing this kind of success on the sales floor,” said Matt Sheahan, COO of Triumph Motorcycles America.
“We want to thank our dealers for their efforts and our new customers for joining the Triumph Family. We are looking forward to riding with you in 2017!”
After he and his teammate Jorge Lorenzo had looked well in control of proceedings after the first day of practice at Brno, Valentino Rossi warned the media against drawing premature conclusions.
“I think it’s just Friday, it’s a long way to Sunday,” he said. We in the media ignored his warnings, of course, and painted a technicolor picture of a race where the Movistar Yamaha riders took back a hefty bunch of points from Marc Márquez, reigniting the championship.
Then Saturday happened, and Valentino Rossi turned out to be right again (and not for the first time, I might add). Friday had been just Friday. It was indeed still a long way to Sunday. Saturday, a stepping stone on the way to Sunday, helped turn a lot of things around.
Jorge Lorenzo is still fast. So is Valentino Rossi, though not quite as fast as he had hoped. Andrea Iannone is a genuine threat for the podium, or even his second win in a row.
Maverick Viñales could still get up front and complicate things, though he has a hill to climb after a problem with the brakes saw him qualify on the third row of the grid.
But any illusions the Movistar Yamaha men had of clawing back points from Marc Márquez will have to be shelved. Not only will the Repsol Honda rider start from pole on Sunday, but he also has the race pace which was missing on Friday.
All thanks to a breathtaking lap of Brno, and a large set of wings which helped cure some of the worst problems with the Honda RC213V.
To say that Michael Dunlop rode to an impressive win on Friday’s Senior TT, might be an understatement. While winning the Senior TT is his second TT race win for the 2016 Isle of Man TT, Dunlop’s true accomplishment can be found on the time sheets, with his record-breaking pace. A fortnight of records dropping, this year’s Senior TT was no different, and Dunlop set not only the fastest lap of the Senior TT race, but also the fastest lap of any Senior TT race ever held at the Isle of Man TT: 133.962 mph. This mark is also the fastest lap ever recorded during an Isle of Man TT race, and is the fastest outright lap ever at the Isle of Man TT. In other words, this is the new mark that all other riders will aspire to surpass in the coming years.
The weather is mercurial at the Isle of Man, and it often throws a spanner into the plans for the TT. This year, the weather has been perfect – hot and sunny throughout the practice week, and into the race week. That is of course, until Wednesday, when the fog and ocean mist delayed proceedings by several hours.
This meant that the Monster Energy Supersport TT Race 2 got off to an afternoon start, rather than its planned morning get-off. Thankfully, the modest delay still allowed for a full-day’s racing, and good racing it was.
With the big bikes getting the 2016 Isle of Man TT off to a wonderful start, Monday saw the Supersport and Superstock bikes on the Mountain Course for the racing action. Though the machines were different, the same names were the talk of the paddock.
The weather was once again stellar for Race 1 of the Supersport TT, the first match of the 600cc class of machines, and all eyes on the TT course were getting record to see another race record drop. They would not be disappointed.