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Michael Dunlop puts on a slick show in Isle of Man TT qualifying as he tops Supersport practice times


Mighty Mike: Michael Dunlop at Ballaugh Bridge during qualifying at Isle of Man TT. Photo: Pacemaker

Mighty Mike: Michael Dunlop at Ballaugh Bridge during qualifying at Isle of Man TT. Photo: Pacemaker

Dave Kneen/ManxPhotosOnline.com

Mighty Mike: Michael Dunlop at Ballaugh Bridge during qualifying at Isle of Man TT. Photo: Pacemaker

Michael Dunlop made a flying start to the Isle of Man TT as practice got under way, with the 19-time winner topping the Supersport times after switching to a new tyre brand.

Dunlop made the change to Metzeler Tyres following a decision by Dunlop Tyres to withdraw its rear Superbike slick on safety grounds.

It is the latest twist in the Dunlop Tyres saga after many of the leading contenders were forced out of the blue riband Superbike race at the North West 200 earlier this month following an issue with the KR108 tyre, which resulted in a frightening moment for Ulsterman Dunlop along the Coast Road in the first Superbike event.

The 33-year-old somehow managed to stay upright on his Hawk Suzuki after the tyre came apart.

English rider Peter Hickman also had a similar issue in the same race at over 190mph on the fast run towards Coleraine.

In a statement on Friday, Dunlop Tyres said it was withdrawing the tyre from its TT allocation and offering a treaded rear tyre option instead.

However, it wasn’t enough to convince Ballymoney man Dunlop to stick with the brand and he has now jumped ship to the rival manufacturer.

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Hickman, plus fellow top TT riders Dean Harrison, Davey Todd and Conor Cummins continued to use the Dunlop brand yesterday.

Dunlop lapped at 124.10mph on his MD Racing Yamaha to set the pace in the Supersport class from Yorkshire’s Jamie Coward (123.31mph) on the KTS/Steadplan Yamaha. NW200 winner Lee Johnston was sixth fastest on his Ashcourt Racing Yamaha.

Saltburn prospect Todd, who impressed at the NW200 with four runner-up finishes and the Supersport and Superstock lap records, claimed the fastest overall lap on his Milenco by Padgett’s Honda Superbike at 127.492mph, which was 4.262s faster than Harrison on the DAO Racing Kawasaki.

Todd is making only his third appearance at the TT, but already appears to be a podium contender.

“It was just unreal. I was just trying to get used to the course again, but I was grinning from ear to ear,” said the 26-year-old.

“It’s so good to be back. I love riding the Milenco by Padgett’s Honda Fireblade and both bikes are awesome. I can’t wait to get a few laps on the 600 now.

“It’s harder than I remember and a lot bumpier out there as well. It will take a few nights to get used to it again, but we will get to grips again and be ready to go.”

Sam West (The Street Diner BMW) was third with a lap of 125.22mph followed by 23-time winner John McGuinness, who lapped at 124.955mph.

Dunlop was eighth quickest on the Hawk Racing Suzuki with a speed of 124.469mph behind OMG Yamaha’s James Hillier, Ian Hutchinson on the Milwaukee BMW and Coward (KTS/Steadplan Yamaha).

TT legend McGuinness, who turned 50 in April, is gearing up for a milestone 100th start at the event in Saturday’s RST Superbike race.

“That was scary. The speed and power is just unbelievable with the new Superbike,” he said.

“It was good, conditions were good, a bit breezy on the Mountain with a tail wind. I got a stone in the knuckle at one point which hurt, but it’s amazing to be out there again. I did four laps so it wasn’t too bad for the first night.”

His team-mate and newcomer Glenn Irwin completed five laps on his Superstock machine and two on his Superbike, clocking his best lap on the Superbike at 122.616mph, which is the fastest ever opening night qualifying lap.

The Carrickfergus man was ninth fastest in the Superstock standings (121.535mph) and 13th in the Superbike class after his 122mph lap.

Hickman topped the Superstock times on the FHO Racing BMW at 126.49mph, which was the third fastest lap overall.

In the Supertwin class, Coward led the way on his 650 Kawasaki at 117.57mph from Dunlop (MD Racing Paton), who managed 116.63mph.

Practice continues this evening, with roads closed from 6pm until 9.30pm.

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