All change as Michael Dunlop finds way back on road to glory
Ballymoney's Michael Dunlop, who unceremoniously dumped his factory Yamaha ride yesterday morning to jump back on his favoured BMW machinery, said he was "flat to the mat with the party hat" after setting a phenomenal lap of 129.659mph on board the German Superstock machine.
The 26-year-old may have been bettered by PBM Kawasaki's Ian Hutchinson, who set the quickest time of the night with a lap speed of 130.266mph on his Superbike.
But Dunlop, who was still waiting on his BMW Superbike arriving in the hands of the Buildbase British Superbike team, said of his Superstock effort: "We started steady on the first lap as the bike has not run this year and on the third lap we had a little problem and nursed it home.
"I was starting to think I'd lost it for a while but I proved tonight it's not me," was his closing remark, referring to the tough time he experienced with a slow lap speed of 124mph onboard the Milwaukee Yamaha on Wednesday night.
Dunlop has a habit of making all the headlines on track at the Isle of Man TT, having taken consecutive four timers at the June showpiece, which leaves him on 11 TT wins coming into this year's event.
But yesterday morning's announcement left one of the most respected teams in the British Superbike paddock and a leading Japanese manufacturer possibly rethinking their future involvement at the Manx event.
It's yet unclear what the major dispute was between both parties, but rumours have been circulating for weeks that Dunlop was planning a return to BMW machinery after a number of spats with the Milwaukee team and what can only be described as a disastrous outing at the North West 200 with a glut of non-finishes.
Dunlop's comment in the official TT statement was nothing like his usual flamboyant efforts, reading more like a heavily diluted PR piece. It read: "I would like to thank Milwaukee Yamaha for their support in bringing me into their team and I am genuinely sorry to be making this decision.
"But unfortunately I don't think there is enough time left with the sessions we've already lost at the TT to be truly competitive and get the bike to the level we need to in order to win races here."
SMR team owner Shaun Muir remained tight-lipped. His PR team released this statement: "Milwaukee Yamaha, its staff and sponsors have worked tirelessly to prepare a race winning package especially with the introduction of the new R1M. The development of the bike is advancing well, testament to results on the short circuit worldwide.
"Despite having all the ingredients for TT success, rider, bike and team, Michael has taken the decision not to continue with the programme and for that reason we have released him from his contract. Milwaukee Yamaha will continue to focus on its MCE British Superbike Championship campaign."
Dunlop will now get just one session on the Buildbase BMW Superbike tonight before tomorrow's six-lap Superbike TT, but expect fireworks as he looks to make yet another statement on track.
John McGuinness, a 21-time TT winner, is doing what he does best these days - slipping under the radar.
During last night's session, the Morecambe man posted a 130.030mph lap on his Honda Racing Superbike with the top six made up of Bruce Anstey (129.957mph), William Dunlop (129.419mph), Guy Martin (128.963mph) and Michael Rutter (128.529mph).
Dunlop's 129.659mph lap topped the Superstock session and would have been good enough for top four in the Superbike class with Hutchinson (128.308mph), David Johnson (127.470mph), James Hillier (127.127mph), Anstey (127.045mph) and Lee Johnston (126.759mph) rounding out the top six.
Tyco BMW's William Dunlop backed up his impressive Superbike lap of 129mph with a Supersport time on his CD/IC Yamaha of 123.708mph, but it was Mar-Train Racing's Gary Johnson who topped last night's timesheets with a lap of 124.307mph.
The Lincolnshire rider's time on the Northern Ireland based team's R6 Yamaha was just eight seconds slower than the Supersport time set by Anstey onboard the Padgett's Honda on Wednesday evening.
Dunlop's lap was third quickest on the night, with the second of the Mar-Train Yamaha's fourth in the hands of Dean Harrison (123.314mph). Hutchinson (122.776mph) was fifth on the TTC Yamaha with Johnston sixth (122.635mph) on the ECC/Burdens 675 Triumph.
Practice continues tonight at 6.20pm.