Michael makes it a magical 19th Island success
Form may be merely temporary, but Michael Dunlop yet again proved that class is permanent as he stood on the top of the podium on the Isle of Man for a 19th time.
The Ballymoney ace, who had ridden in only one road race, the recent North West 200, following the death of his brother William, roared to victory in a thrilling two-lap Lightweight TT.
On board the Reparto Corse 650cc Paton he came within three one hundredths of a second of his own lap record with a final lap of 122.75mph. However, he was pushed all the way by Jamie Coward (KB Electrical CMS Kawasaki), with Dunlop's winning margin a miniscule 1.299secs.
It was also the 50th win by a Dunlop on the island, adding to the numbers set by father Robert and uncle Joey, and the youngest member of the racing clan admitted he had had his doubts.
"I didn't think I'd ever get back in here again (winner's enclosure). The injury I had, plus the lack of laps certainly haven't helped us this week," he said.
"That was a tough race, people say it's only 650cc machines but you have to ride them to their limit around here and I lost the rear a couple of times.
"The pressure was starting to kick in and I thought for a minute I had lost it but, despite being a bit rusty, we got the job done.
"The boys did a great job with the Paton and I'm glad to get the win for them."
Early in the race it looked as if Michael was going to get it easy, extending a 2.688secs lead at Glen Helen to four seconds over Coward at Ramsey, with Lee Johnston charging on his KMR Kawasaki.
There was drama at the Bungalow as Dunlop's lead had been reduced to 0.262secs, and as they headed onto their final lap, Coward was leading by three quarters of a second from the 30-year-old Ballymoney man, with Johnston seven seconds back in third.
But Dunlop responded to Coward's challenge, reducing the deficit to half a second at Glen Helen and to a tenth at Ballaugh Bridge, and he had retaken the lead at Ramsey by a second.
On the final climb up the Mountain, Coward wasn't giving up without a fight, but Dunlop clung on to take the chequered flag for the 19th time, having to suffer an agonising wait until Coward crossed the line having started a minute and a half behind him.
Lee Johnston was a fine third on Ryan Farquhar's KMR Kawasaki, with Magherafelt's Paul Jordan a tremendous fourth on the RC Express Dafabet Devitt Kawasaki, finishing ahead of Michael Rutter and NW200 winner Stefano Bonetti.
The last race of a record five completed yesterday was the TT Zero event, with Rutter on the Bathams Mugen winning by eight seconds from team-mate John McGuinness and setting a new lap record of 121.909mph for an electric bike. Completing what was a veterans podium, Ian Lougher finished in third.
The blue riband Senior TT is scheduled over six laps starting at 10am today, weather permitting.