DUNLOP SETS THE PACE IN OPENING QUALIFYING SESSION
In the opening qualifying session of the 2023 Isle of Man TT Races it was Michael Dunlop that set the pace, topping all four solo classes including an unofficial lap record in the Supertwin category, with a lap of 122.907mph, quicker than his 2018 best of 122.750mph.
Dunlop was also quickest in the Superbike class on the Hawk Racing Honda (131.782mph), the Superstock class (130.426mph) on his MD Racing Honda and the Supersport class where he lapped at 127.019mph on the MD Racing Yamaha. In the Sidecar class, it was Pete Founds/Jevan Walmsley who were quickest at 117.431mph.
It was perfect conditions all around the Mountain Course, the morning’s free practice sessions took place under blue skies and sunshine with the first qualifying session getting underway at 2pm. The Supersport and Supertwin machines were first away, Dunlop (MD Racing Paton) and Dean Harrison (BPEby Russell Racing Yamaha) the first to head off towards Bray Hill.
They were quickly followed by Michael Rutter (Bathams Ales Yamaha) and Dominic Herbertson (John M Paterson Ltd/CC Engineering Kawasaki) on their Supertwin machines with James Hillier (BPE by Russell Racing Yamaha) and Paul Jordan (PreZ Racing by Prosper Yamaha) next to go, both Supersport-mounted. Jamie Coward (KTS Racing Kawasaki) and Josh Brookes (Dafabet Racing Kawasaki) were also amongst the early Supertwin starters.
Harrison was the first to complete a lap at 125.494mph followed by Jordan (121.796mph) and Hillier (120.607mph) but it was Hickman who went quickest at 125.958mph, four seconds faster than Harrison’s lap. Todd slotted into third with a lap of 123.913mph with Mike Browne (122.161mph) and Conor Cummins (121.554mph) also in the mix.
However, the big news was in the Supertwin class with Dunlop unofficially breaking the lap record from a standing start at 122.907mph. This was almost half a minute quicker than Coward (119.758mph) with Brian McCormack (118.971mph), Herbertson (115.895mph), Brookes (115.518mph) and Junior Manx GP winner Francesco Curinga (115.183mph) completing the early leaderboard.
Hickman continued for a second lap on the K2 Trooper Triumph and improved to 126.814mph with Todd (124.604) and David Johnson (121.788) also bettering their opening lap speed only for Dunlop to go to the top of the leaderboard with a lap of 127.019mph, 1.7seconds quicker than Hickman.
Supertwin speeds were also on the up with Herbertson (116.821), Brookes (116.470) and Rutter (116.425) all going quicker second time around.
The Superbikes and Superstocks were next out at 2.45pm and Harrison (DAO Racing Kawasaki) was quick out the blocks delivering the first lap over 130mph with a speed of 130.752mph on his Superbike which was just quicker than Dunlop’s Superstock speed of 130.426mph.
John McGuinness (127.881mph) and James Hillier (127.581mph) were next quickest on their Superbike mounts with Rutter (125.888) and Brookes (125.742) not too far behind, Rutter on the RC213V-S and Brookes on the Superstock BMW. Hickman was late out on track but immediately slotted into second on the Superbike leaderboard with a lap of 130.272mph with Coward (127.975mph) going third quickest.
Dunlop switched to his Superbike and posted a lap of 130.658mph but Harrison increased his pace on lap two to 131.764mph as did Hickman (131.254mph), McGuinness (129.398mph), Coward (129.017mph) and Todd (128.211mph). Dunlop saved the best until last though with a final lap of 131.782mph putting him quickest on the Superbike despite smoke reported to be coming from the Fireblade.
Brookes was second fastest in the Superstock class with a second lap speed of 126.404mph ahead of Phil Crowe (126.067mph) and Mike Browne (125.262mph).
Meanwhile, newcomers Erno Kostamo (115.468mph), Matthieu Lagrive (111.839mph), Ryan Cringle (111.658mph), Jack Petrie (107.696mph), Jorge Halliday (107.527mph) all had a successful first day around the Mountain Course.
The final session of a busy day was for the Sidecars with Founds/Walmsley setting the initial pace on their FHO Racing Honda at 116.286mph, which was six seconds quicker than the Birchall’s lap of 115.689mph. Founds/Lowther slotted into third (113.485) ahead of Molyneux/Sayle (112.082) and Bryan/Hyde (111.944).
Both Founds/Walmsley and the Birchalls upped their pace on lap two with the former coming out on top by 2.7seconds with a lap of 117.431mph compared to 117.153mph. Newcomer driver Daryl Gibson, who was passenger for Molyneux twelve months ago, impressed with a lap of 107.497mph with Tom Christie.
Tomorrow’s qualifying session is set to get under at 18:30.