Michael Dunlop took his first ever Superbike TT victory on Sunday afternoon at the Isle of Man TT Races, fuelled by Monster Energy, taking the lead at Ballaugh on the opening lap and going on to build a commanding 40-second victory from fellow Honda riders Cameron Donald and John McGuinness, the latter overcoming a one-minute pit-lane penalty to set a new outright lap record on the final lap.
After a 45-minute delay due to a road traffic accident, the six-lap race finally got underway at 3.00pm and it was Gary Johnson who set the early pace, the Lincs Lifting Ltd Honda rider holding a 1.5s lead over Dunlop at Glen Helen on lap one with McGuinness a further second back.
By Ballaugh Dunlop had taken over at the front, turning the deficit to Johnson into a one second advantage and with an opening lap of 130.842mph, the Honda TT Legends rider held a 3.2s lead over new second placed rider Guy Martin, Johnson now in third ahead of McGuinness, Donald and Bruce Anstey.
By Glen Helen on lap two, Johnson was back up to second, two seconds up on Martin but now 4.4s adrift of the flying Dunlop while McGuinness, riding in complete Joey Dunlop livery to celebrate 30 years since the 26-times winner’s first victory for Honda, was still, surprisingly, back in fourth. By the end of the lap though, he was up to second but some 15 seconds down on Dunlop who was continuing to pull away after his first ever 131mph+ lap.
McGuinness’ pit stop was six seconds quicker than third placed Martin but Johnson never got that far having retired at the Nook out of fuel so the leaderboard now read Dunlop, McGuinness, Martin, Donald, Conor Cummins and William Dunlop. However, the latter incurred a 30s penalty for speeding in the pitlane dropping him down the order.
Coming into the second pit stop at the end of lap four, Dunlop was the only rider above 130mph and it stretched his advantage over McGuinness to 30.8s although that soon increased with his Honda TT Legends team-mate being hit with a one-minute pit lane penalty dropping him behind Martin and back to fourth.
Dunlop had now caught McGuinness and Donald on the road with the trio circulating in close formation and all he had to do was continue that for the final laps to claim his fourth TT win. Nineteen times winner McGuinness was piling on the coals as he desperately tried to get back on the podium but lap five spelt disappointment for sixth placed Dan Stewart who retired at Sulby Village with a holed radiator.
As McGuinness closed in on Martin, Dunlop was able to ease back in the final lap and bring the bike home for a famous win, his eventual winning margin over Donald in excess of 40 seconds. The Australian, like Dunlop, posted a new personal best lap of the Mountain Course but McGuinness was still able to grab some headlines as he set a new outright lap record on the final circuit, 131.671mph, to claim third from Martin and make it a Honda 1-2-3.
“The Superbike was the main goal for me,” Dunlop said. “It’s been a dream of mine and it honestly hasn’t sunk in yet that I’ve won it. I never got to ride with Joey so when I caught John on the road in the tribute livery it was kind of weird and I had to think twice that it wasn’t Joey.
“John was so smooth and he’s taken over the title of King of the Mountain, so to sit behind him and follow those lines was just fantastic. It was a very special moment. The Superbike was just unbelievable, it handled lovely and I can’t thank Honda and the team enough.”
Cummins took a good fifth on the Milwaukee Yamaha, the first time he’d completed a six-lap race since 2009 with the third of the Honda TT Legends riders Michael Rutter in sixth. James Hillier took seventh from Anstey, William Dunlop and the sensational Josh Brookes, the Australian finishing in 10th and becoming the fastest ever newcomer in the process, his final lap being a stunning 127.726mph.
Monday sees the Monster Energy Supersport race get away at 10:45 with the Royal London 360 Superstock Race scheduled to take place at 14:00.
–From the Isle of Man TT & Honda TT Legends