Michael Dunlop's Southern 100 quest has an up and down day
There was Southern 100 delight and frustration all wrapped into one for Michael Dunlop during last night's races on the Isle of Man.
The Honda TT Legends factory rider took his Superbike machine to victory in the Ellan Vannin Fuels 8-lap Senior Race in perfect conditions. Tyco Suzuki's Guy Martin was second and RC Express Kawasaki pilot Dean Harrison was third.
But Dunlop's chances of repeating last year's 'five wins from five starts' was later thwarted by defeat in the Supersport encounter by debut victor at Billown, Dean Harrison; Tyco Suzuki's Guy Martin was second and Dunlop third. Dunlop put the loss down to engine problems, explaining candidly: "The bike was terrible. There's only one thing to look at: the motor. It's horrendous!" On a more positive note. In a mirror image of Tuesday's Superbike action, Dunlop shadowed early leader Guy Martin on his Tyco Suzuki during the first race of the night, before edging past the Lincolnshire man and doing what Micky D does best on a Superbike: he pulled the pin.
The Honda TT Legends man was nonchalant in his post race interview, explaining that the handling on his Honda Fireblade had not yet been perfected, despite recording a one hundred percent record from his opening two races.
"That was a wee bit better but we are making it hard work for ourselves," before adding some corporate spin by saying: "We are going in the right direction; these boys know what they are doing." When questioned about overcoming slower riders on the final circuit he quipped: "I just hammered my way through them. I wasn't that bothered what the other boys were doing."
Tyco Suzuki mounted Guy Martin had led the way for the opening five laps, but was always expecting Dunlop to come past, as he openly admitted. "Yeah I held Michel up for a while," he joked. "We made a lot of changes overnight and yeah, we're getting there; it's given us food for thought."
Adding a little bit of gamesmanship before today's 9-lap Championship race with a £3,500.00 winner's cheque at stake, he said: "I'd rather finish second today and win tomorrow, but where else would you want to be in weather like this?"
Dean Harrison in only his second appearance at the Southern 100 took third place and a new lap record [113.461mph on lap 5 of 8] to add to his second place from Tuesday night's Superbike race; later finishing second in the Supertwins' encounter.
William Dunlop was on pole position for the 8-lap Radcliffe Butcher's 600cc race, but after taking the lead from Guy Martin on lap three, the Ballymoney man overshot Ballakeigan on lap four, leaving Martin and Harrison to dispute the victory.
From lap five onwards, both Martin and Harrison repeatedly dipped inside Michael Dunlop's previous lap record of 108.464mph set in 2009, and despite an onslaught of pressure, Harrison took the victory by a miniscule 0.077sec.
Martin had the consolation of setting a new lap record on the final circuit at a blistering speed of 110.306mph. Michael Dunlop was some 16 seconds adrift in third place.
Ryan Farquhar's young protégé Jamie Hamilton won an enthralling Supertwins' encounter on his KMR Vauxhall Dealers NI Kawasaki from Dean Harrison, with James Cowton on the second KMR Kawasaki in third. Callum Collister won the final race of the evening: the 125/400cc race over six laps.
The final race action for 2013 takes place today with the second Supersport race of the meeting scheduled to run at 10.20am.
This is followed by a four-race programme commencing at 1.20pm: 250cc/650cc race; 125/400/450cc race; the 9-lap feature race of the meeting – the Solo Championship, with the meeting wrapped up by the Formula 2 Sidecar Championship.