Dynamic Michael Dunlop a class apart as he ramps up Isle of Man TT bid
Michael Dunlop tightened the screw on his rivals during the penultimate practice and qualifying session of this year's Isle of Man TT, with an outstanding lap of 132.365mph aboard his Hawk Racing BMW prior to tomorrow's six-lap TT Superbike race.
As if that wasn't enough for his rivals to contend with, the 11-time winner banged in a personal best and a new unofficial TT Superstock lap record with a 131.336mph effort - the third fastest time of the session, despite the other four 131mph results coming on Superbike machinery.
His main rival for TT Superbike honours is undoubtedly going to come from the official BMW Motorrad UK corner and the TAS Racing team and their rider Ian Hutchinson on the Tyco BMW.
The Bingley ace, like Dunlop, currently sits on 11 wins on Mona's Isle, and with a brace of 131mph laps last night (131.661mph and 131.111mph), he too will be quietly confident of taking his first Superbike win since 2011 - the year in which he won all five solo class races at the TT.
Twenty-three time winner John McGuinness kept his name to the fore with an impressive lap around the 37.73-mile circuit at 131.116mph on his Honda Racing Fireblade, albeit some nine seconds down on Dunlop's effort that tops the timesheets.
Conor Cummins (Honda Racing) and Dean Harrison (Silicone Racing) continue to impress at this TT with both men in the 129mph bracket, and will certainly be top-six performers tomorrow, ready to pick up the pieces should any mechanical problems halt the progress of the main contenders.
William Dunlop is also starting to find his feet on his YZF-R1M Yamaha, which only arrived at the start of practice week.
A best lap of 128mph last night was a great effort, but in the current climate it is probably only going to afford him a lower top-12 finishing position.
East Coast Racing's Lee Johnston was also in the 128mph bracket last night, but the Fermanagh ace topped the Supersport times with a 124.838mph effort on his ECR 675 Triumph.
Hutchinson, a double TT Supersport winner last year, posted the second and third quickest middleweight times last night on his Came TTC Yamaha (124.223mph and 123.787mph), owned and funded by Prodigy rock band front man Keith Flint.
Honda Racing's McGuinness (123.478mph) and Cummins (123.371mph) were joined in the top six by William Dunlop, who only did one lap on his R6 Yamaha but did rattle in a lap of 123.134mph.
The unofficial Superstock lap record by Michael Dunlop on his MD Racing BMW at 131.336mph (17min: 14.206s) was four seconds quicker than Hutchinson's 130.745mph effort on the Tyco BMW from Wednesday night.
Michael Rutter gave team boss Ryan Farquhar, recovering after a crash at the NW200, something to enjoy, setting the fastest time of the night in the Lightweight class aboard Farquhar's KMR Kawasaki with a lap of 118.054mph.