Michael Dunlop sets 132mph pace ahead of today's Superbike showdown
Michael Dunlop, on his Tyco BMW, was fastest Superbike rider during final qualifying before today's 12 noon RST Superbike TT 6-lap race after putting in three 132mph laps in a session delayed for 35 minutes following a road traffic accident at the Graham Memorial.
Dunlop completed his opening lap in 17m 06.428secs, a speed of 132.331mph, then a red flag interrupted proceeding after two riders collided on Hailwood Rise and although they were uninjured the road was covered in debris and oil.
After another half hour delay, bikes were on track again and Dunlop was faster again with a 132.659mph lap and his final flying lap was completed in 17m 01.391secs, a speed of 132.983mp.
This was his fastest lap of the week, but still Dean Harrison has the fastest speed of the week at 133.462mph, some three and a half seconds faster than Dunlop, so everything is set for a battle royal this afternoon and the race could well be won or lost on the first lap.
James Hillier, second fastest last night at 130.644mph, David Johnson, also putting in a 130mph in third and Conor Cummins ,129.461 in fourth, will all be rostrum contenders today, while Peter Hickman, who concentrated on his Superstock Smiths BMW last night, will certainly be in contention for a top step after a 132mph lap on Thursday.
Hickman topped the Superstock class with a lap of 130.829mph yesterday evening, five seconds faster than Australian David Johnson on the Gulf BMW at 130.562mph with Gary Johnson (RAF Kawasaki), no relation, third fastest at 127.360mph. Shaun Anderson was fifth fastest just behind Michael Rutter with Jamie Coward sixth.
Supersport saw the McAdoo Kawasaki of James Cowton head the time sheets with a 123.378mph, four seconds ahead of the Triumph of Gary Johnson and a second McAdoo Kawasaki in the hands of Tobermore rider Adam McLean third fastest at 121.473mph and newcomer Davey Todd fifth on John Burrows' Cookstown BE Honda
John Holden and passenger Lee Cain was the fastest sidecar last night with a single lap of 115.717mph, well ahead of the outfit of Alan Founds and Jake Lowther at 113.557mph.
Last year's winner's Ben and Tom Birchall will start today's first Sidecar three-lap race as favourites even though they pulled in less than half a lap into practice, which they intended, as they were running in parts and tyres ahead of the race.
Lee Johnston topped the Zero TT practice lap with a lap over 116mph after his team-mate stopped on the lap with a problem.
So, practice for Superbikes is over ahead of today's 6-lap race and on paper it looks to be a Dunlop, Harrison, Hickman battle at the front. Cummins, Josh Brookes, Rutter, Lee Johnston and James Hillier will all be challenging if any of the front runners drop out.
The big question being, what will the lap speeds reach today with the outright lap record of 133.932mph by Dunlop in jeopardy with the first 134mph lap of the circuit a distinct possibility.
Here at home today the AJ Plumbing Ulster Superbike Championship continues at Kirkistown with the Belfast and District Club hoping for a much better day after their Easter Monday round was cancelled because of the weather.