Belfast Telegraph

Isle of Man TT: Michael Dunlop makes tribute to tragic Kneen after Saturday Superbike success

Ballymoney rider dedicates sensational Superbike TT win to team-mate on emotional day on the Isle of Man

By Roy Harris

Michael Dunlop gave Tyco BMW a sensational, but emotional RST Superbike TT victory in the opening race of the 2018 Isle of Man TT and afterwards dedicated the win to his team-mate, Manxman Dan Kneen, who lost his life in a practice night accident last Wednesday.

"I wanted to do something for Dan," Michael said. "None of us can do anything to make it better but that is for the family.

"Its been a hard week for us, the Tyco BMW boys worked so hard this week doing everything I asked of them and probably a bit more. Sadly, my team-mate Dan wasn't here with us."

The race belonged to Dunlop after he took the lead on lap four following early leader Dean Harrison's forced retired at Sulby Crossroads with a slipping clutch on his Silicone Kawasaki.

Yorkshireman Harrison lit up the race from the word go with a record shattering opening lap from a standing start of 134.432mph, an absolute lap record for the 37 and three quarter mile Mountain Circuit, eclipsing Dunlop's 2016 record of 133.393mph by almost eight seconds.

For the 29-year old from Ballymoney this was his 16th TT victory moving him level with arch-rival Ian Hutchinson, who retired from Saturday's race.

Dunlop acknowledged: "I wasn't surprised by Dean's pace, he's been on it all year and the first two laps I struggled, but then on the third lap he started to come back to me. Its been a hard job all week getting to this place and I'm really happy with the team. I know there is more to come."

At the opening time check, Harrison, who started 10 seconds ahead of Dunlop, was 3.7secs ahead with Peter Hickman third and James Hillier, Conor Cummins and Gary Johnson completing the top six.

The 29-year old Bradford rider kept stretching his lead, section by section, to lead by 11.3 secs at the end of the fastest lap in TT history, 16m 50.384secs, 134.432mph.

Cummins was up to third, as Hickman entered the pits and retired the Smiths BMW.

Into the pits at the end of lap two, Harrison was 16.3 secs ahead of Dunlop with another 134mph lap, the Tyco BMW of Dunlop upping his pace to 133.513mph.

Cummins was still third with a personal best lap of 132.589mph some 16 seconds behind Michael.

Dunlop was on the move on lap three with Harrison's lead reduced to 11 and a half seconds and by Glen Helen on lap four it was down to nine seconds. Harrison still led at Ballaugh, but only by four seconds and shortly afterwards his superb effort was over, retiring at Sulby Crossroads.

Harrison said: "I was absolutely gutted. The clutch had started slipping earlier and I felt the job was finished. I threw my tantrum and spat my dummy out but had a shower and I'm over it now. A massive thanks to the fans out there, they were amazing. I'm off now to support the old man (his dad Conrad) in the sidecar race."

It may not be colsolation for Harrison but he now holds both the TT and Ulster Grand Prix fastest laps - (134.432mph for the TT and 134.614mph at Dundrod) making the UGP still the fastest road race in the world but that could change before the week is out.

At the end of lap four, Dunlop's lead was 40.3 secs over Cummins after a 133.240mph lap with Hillier a further 20.5 secs back in third and David Johnson up to fourth ahead of Michael Rutter and Lee Johnston. By then, Gary Johnson had retired at Sarah's Cottage on lap four.

Dunlop went on to take the chequered flag by over 50 secs from Cummins who was equalling his best ever result with second, his seventh podium with Hillier securing his seventh podium, 21.6 secs back, on the Padgetts Honda.

Lee Johnston finished sixth on his Honda Racing TT debut while Shaun Anderson from Banbridge was 13th with his best ever lap of 128.672mph on the final circuit.

John Burrows' Cookstown BE Suzuki rider Davy Todd was best newcomer in 16th position becoming the third fastest newcomer in TT history with an opening lap of 126.268mph.

Dunlop later pointed out: "I was quicker on my BMW in 2016 133.393mph, I have won here on different manufacturers' machines and with different teams. I'm not hear to talk c**p... all I want to do is ride bikes and win. I'll keep pushing, I know I need to up my pace and Monday's a different day."

What a day it was for Michael, winning his 16th TT and then on a practice lap on his Superstock, he set the week's fastest speed for the class at 131.158mph on his own MD Racing BMW, ending his remarkable day by setting the fastest Supersport lap of the week at 127.063mph on his MD PTR Carl Cox backed Honda.

The sidecars were not to be outdone in their first three lap race, which did not get underway until 7.05pm after their first attempt was red flagged on lap one when the pairing of Tony Baker and Fiona Baker-Holden crashed at Skye Hill, near Ramsey and had to be air-lifted to hospital. Baker sustained a leg fracture and Baker-Holden suffered bruising in the high-speed accident.

In an extraordinary race, the winning combination of Ben and Tom Birchall produced three laps inside their own lap record from last year of 117.119mph, settling for an incredible second lap of 118.694mph to win by 47 secs from John Holden with Lee Cain in the chair and Tim Reeves and Mark Wilkes in third position, all on 600cc LCR Hondas.

A medical update yesterday described English rider Steve Mercer, who was in collision with an official event car following the Kneen fatality, as stable in hospital in Liverpool.

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