The final race of the 2017 Isle of Man TT, the Pokerstars Senior TT is the competition that every rider wants to win. The “Blue Ribbon” event of race week, the six-lap Senior TT is the crown jewel to the TT fortnight.
Once again, a TT race was framed around two riders: Ian Hutchinson and Michael Dunlop. Hutchinson came into the Senior TT with two race wins on his tally, one from the Superbike TT and one from the Superstock TT.
Riding on the BMW S1000RR, Hutchinson has a race-proven machine under him, and he has been riding in the form of his life. Contrast that with Michael Dunlop, who has been doing the donkey work in developing the new Suzuki GSX-R1000R as a formidable TT racing machine.
Dunlop comes into the Senior TT with only one win – earned during the Supersport TT Race 1 – with the jump to the GSX-R1000R still not panning out like he would have hoped.
With this in mind, we head into the Senior TT – a race, once again, defined by two riders.
After seeing Race 1 cancelled for safety concerns, i.e. not having a rain tire that could run in the wet conditions at Monza, World Superbike tried again to put on a show for the Italian fans. Giving riders two warm-up laps to sight the fabled Italian circuit, the race distance was also reduced by a lap to 17 laps total.
With the riders coming in from their two sighting laps, the hands from a majority of the racers went up on the grid, signaling that they did not want to start the race. Race Direction obliged, and delayed the start because of the conditions. Regrouping and going out on another warm-up lap, Monza continued to be problematic and claimed two victims, as BMW Italia rider Michel Fabrizio and pole-setter Sylvain Guintoli both suffered from malfunctions on the lap, and had to scratch their starts.
As had been the case all week, World Superbike had to look to the skies before Race 1 at Assen to determine what the weather gods had in store for the Dutch track. Expecting fair conditions for Race 1, and rain expected for Race 2, teams again would have continue to have to juggle two different setups for their riders.
With the grid on slicks for the start of Race 1, things would come to crashing halt just nine laps later, as the rain made an early appearance. Red-flagged and restarted, Race 1 ended up being a very wet affair. Click past the jump for spoilers and results.
Tom Sykes (1:55.197) started on pole for the 2011 World Superbike round at Misano after putting the Kawasaki on the front row in damp conditions during Saturday’s Superpole sessions, holding off a late-charging Carlos Checa by almost two tenths. They were joined on the front row by Jakub Smrz and Marco Melandri, with Max Biaggi only seventh. The damp and greasy conditions caught out many riders, including Checa, Smrz, Eugene Laverty, Ruben Xaus, and Leon Camier. The latter two were unable to set a time in Superpole 1 and qualified only fifteenth and sixteenth.
Checa and Biaggi fought over the fastest lap during the practice and qualifying sessions, with Checa coming out on top in the dry conditions. In the final qualifying practice, Noriyuki Haga was quite a bit slower than usual, and did not move on to participate in the Superpole sessions. Chris Vermeulen, hopefully recovered enough to race, was also knocked out in QP, along with the satellite Kawasakis, two Italian wildcard riders, and Lorenzo Lanzi. Lanzi is filling in this weekend and next at Motorland Aragon for the still-recovering James Toseland. Checa was again quickest in the morning warm-up, leading to a sunny and occasionally dramatic Race 1. Jonatha Rea missed that race, and Race 2, after a massive crash in the warm-up. He sustained a clean break to his right radius, “Plus a lot of bumps/bruises from a 230kph off,” in a tweet from Castrol Honda.
After an early race crash that saw the red flagging of Race 2, the second race at Valencia had to be restarted and decided under aggregate time. With only a few hundreths of a second deciding the race winner, there certainly was plenty of race drama finishing out the Spanish stop in the WSBK tour. With some surprise finishers in this race, you’ll be disappointed if you didn’t see it yourself.