Tragedy in TT opener gives Hickman a hollow victory
Peter Hickman took victory in yesterday's opening Isle of Man TT RST Superbike race, but it was over-shadowed by the death of 27-year-old Daley Mathison.
The popular rider from Stockton-on-Tees, in Co Durham, passed away following a crash on his Penz13.com BMW at Snugborough, between Braddan Bridge and Union Mills, just over two miles into the course, on his third lap.
The race was red-flagged immediately and the result declared from the end of lap two, with Hickman 1.782secs ahead of Dean Harrison with Conor Cummins completing the podium, the same top three as the final TT race of last year's event.
Already delayed from Saturday, the race had been reduced from six to four laps and was held in dry conditions, although competitors had to contend with a strong, gusty wind all around the circuit.
At Glen Helen on lap one, Harrison was the front runner, a second clear of Hickman, with James Hillier a further second back and Cummins, Michael Dunlop and Michael Rutter completing the top six.
Fancied runners John McGuinness - on the Norton - Lee Johnston and Ian Hutchinson were well down the order; McGuinness and Johnston destined to retire and Hutchinson finishing in 13th position.
Harrison's standing start lap was 132.48mph, a second clear of Hickman at 132.343mph, with Cummins up to third ahead of Hillier, Dunlop and Rutter.
The leading pair were still neck and neck at Glen Helen on lap two, Cummins dropping back slightly in third and Rutter overhauling Dunlop to go fifth.
Harrison got the hammer down on the run to Ballaugh and was four seconds ahead.
It was still four seconds at Ramsey, but Hickman was charging over the mountain, and coming in for a re-fuelling stop he was leading by 1.7secs with the fastest lap of 132.947mph.
Cummins was more than seven seconds back in third with over half a minute to spare over Hillier, who was 13 seconds clear of Rutter and Dunlop a further 2.7secs back in sixth.
Nine and a half miles into the third lap, Hickman's lead was reduced to 0.690sec, but shortly afterwards the red flags came out,
Asked how he had made up the time on Harrison from Ramsey to the Grandstand Hickman said: "Good question, I don't know. Last night we decided to opt for a hybrid Stocker with the front and rear end of the Superbike and electronics and engine from the Stocker.
"But it's never great to win a race under these circumstances."
The Birchall Brothers, Ben and Tom, led the three-lap sidecar race from start to finish with a fastest lap of 119.129mph and were 43secs ahead of John Holden, with Lee Cain in the chair, and Alan Founds and Jake Lowther a further 28secs back in third.
This was the sixth consecutive sidecar win for the Birchalls, with Tom becoming the most successful sidecar TT passenger.
Two of the pre-race favourites, Tim Reeves and Dave Molyneux, retired in the opening two miles, while Maria Costello, on her TT sidecar debut with Julia Canipa in the chair, finished 21st with a 102mph lap to their credit.
In the Lightweight qualifying laps Derek McGee came off his KMR Kawasaki at Greeba Castle and was taken to Nobles Hospital by Air Med with suspected leg injuries.