Tension rising at the TT as Michael Dunlop and Ian Hutchinson fire out warnings
Eleven-time TT winners Michael Dunlop and Ian Hutchinson have traded blows all week on their respective BMW machinery, and last night both dipped inside the outright lap record with efforts of 132.754mph and 132.803mph respectively.
The week-long duel during TT practice week has set the Hawk Racing and Tyco BMW pilots aside, in a class of their own, and despite Hutchinson's outrageous 132mph lap last night - coming on a showroom specification S1000RR Superstock machine - today is all about the six-lap TT Superbike race.
This year marks ten years on the TT Circuit for 27-year-old Michael Dunlop who has gone through his fair share of factory-supported teams in that time. But no one can ever doubt his commitment or passion for success and with 11 TT wins to his name - to date - he is undoubtedly the man they will all have to beat today.
Portadown's Phillip McCallen, himself an 11-time Isle of Man TT winner, is now a TV pundit, but a big fan of Dunlop, as he has explained on numerous occasions in the past.
"I see a lot of me in Michael when I was at that stage of my career," said McCallen, prior to this year's road racing season. "He's his own man and only interested in getting the job done and winning races. He simply wants to win and it's what he's good at."
Dunlop is fearless when it comes to the heat of battle and will not even be drawn into naming his rivals when interviewed. Head bowed, he simply acknowledges the fact, that if he rides to his own ability, he is simply untouchable.
Fan or foe, it's hard to suggest otherwise about confident Ballymoney man, who in his current form, is well capable of becoming the first man to lap the TT Circuit today at 133mph, never mind upping his tally to 12 wins.
Tyco BMW rider Hutchinson is equally as fearless, yet more mild-mannered in his approach than Dunlop. But like the Ballymoney man, Hutchy holds no soft spot for his rivals and Dunlop, whether he likes it or nor, is also in that number.
Dunlop banged in his second and third career 132mph laps last night and Hutchinson took his first, with that phenomenal unofficial outright lap record of 132.754mph aboard his Tyco BMW Superstock machine.
Barring mechanical failure or rider error today, the RST Superbike TT race is looking like a two-horse race. But when we factor in 227 miles of racing, two pit stops and a man they call McGuinness racing on the same piece of tarmac, then nothing is ever certain. The 44-year-old Honda Racing star has won a staggering 15 1000cc class races here on the Isle of Man. Seven of those have come in the opening day TT Superbike race, and with a 131mph effort on Thursday night to satiate his desire for more, the 23-time TT winner can never be discounted.
Honda are renowned for the slickest pit crew in the business, so the BMW teams of Dunlop and Hutchinson will need to be on the top of their game. The six -lap RST Superbike race gets under way today at 11am.