Mighty Mac is back on top form
John McGuinness admitted to fearing that he would never win another race prior to securing a runaway 16th TT success in the weekend's Dainese Superbike challenge.
After a disappointing 2010 when he failed to take a single podium at the TT, the 39-year-old Morecambe man overcame a strong challenge from Kiwi Bruce Anstey in the early stages of Saturday's six-lap race - and he was delighted to rediscover that winning feeling.
"I thought at one stage I'd never win another TT," he said.
"Bruce was on a mission and pushing hard early on. I dropped back with a bit of arm pump and felt a bit tense, but I had a real good go on the second lap and nearly overshot the pits.
"The boys did an awesome job on both pit stops and gave me a bit of breathing space, especially after the first one. When I got a board saying P1+60 I thought 'what's happened?' and then the penny dropped that Bruce and Guy (Martin) were both out and the race was mine.
"Going off number one created its own pressure, but I got stronger as the race wore on. This race win is dedicated to my good mate Stuart Easton, who got hurt at the North West."
Starting number one on the road, McGuinness rode a customary blistering first lap at a speed of 130.786mph, but Anstey and his Padgetts Honda had matched him all the way and was less than half a second adrift with his fastest ever lap of the 37mile Mountain Circuit - 130.725mph - while Gary Johnston, Guy Martin, Keith Amor Michael Dunlop and Cameron Donald took up the chase.
Anstey hit the front on lap two with the fastest lap of the race at 131.378mph and led by a second from McGuinness as the top two runners came in for the first of two scheduled pit stops.
After refuelling and changing a rear wheel, McGuinness emerged with a 12 second advantage over Anstey on lap three but, a few miles later at Quarry Bends, the unlucky Anstey was out of the race with a blown engine.
By two-thirds distance, McGuinness was in total control, maintaining a steady 20 second gap over Martin, who was later forced to retire from the race on the penultimate lap when his machine expired at Hillberry.
That handed second place to Donald, who said: "We had gambled on set up and took a lap to get dialled in and it was an uphill struggle from sixth on the opening lap. I was rapped to be on the podium for the Wilson Craig Honda Team."
Gary Johnson, despite a 30 second time penalty for a pit lane speeding infringement, finished third, 10 seconds behind the Australian with the brave Keith Amor - riding with a dislocation of his right shoulder following a practice crash on Wednesday evening - fourth.
Michael Dunlop, who dropped to 12th after losing two minutes at his first pit stop when the rear spindle would not go back in during what should have been a routine wheel change, finished a superb fifth.
"I was really cheesed off at that pit stop," he said.
"However it was nobody's fault and the rest of the race was good practice for Friday's Senior as we have at last found a good setting with the Superbike."
* Casey Stoner closed the gap on Jorge Lorenzo at the top of the MotoGP standings after easing to a convincing victory in tricky conditions at yesterday's Catalunya Grand Prix.
The Repsol Honda rider mastered both his rivals and a damp track to register his third victory in five races this season and move to within seven points of Spaniard Lorenzo, who had to settle for second place in front of his home fans.