DUNLOP CLAIMS HIS 23RD TT WIN IN THE RST SUPERBIKE RACE
Michael Dunlop’s grip of the 2023 Isle of Man TT Races continued on Sunday afternoon as he broke the race record by almost a minute to win the RST Superbike race, his 23rd victory in total which saw him draw level with John McGuinness as the second most successful TT rider ever.
Dunlop led from start to finish on the Hawk Racing Honda to win by 8.2 seconds as Peter Hickman (Monster Energy by FHO Racing BMW) narrowly missed out on a new outright lap record with a speed of 135.445mph on his final lap. Dean Harrison (DAO Racing Kawasaki) was again third.
Dunlop grabbed the lead on the first run to Glen Helen, his lead over Harrison a miniscule 0.145 seconds and it was Davey Todd (Milenco by Padgett’s Motorcycles Honda) in third, 1.2 seconds further back. Hickman, experiencing quickshifter issues, slotted into fourth, 0.866 seconds behind Todd and 2.3 seconds behind Dunlop. James Hillier (OMG Racing Yamaha) and John McGuinness MBE (Honda Racing) ran in fifth and sixth just ahead of Jamie Coward (KTS Racing powered by Steadplan Honda) and Josh Brookes (Monster Energy by FHO Racing BMW).
Dunlop still led at Ballaugh but his lead over Harrison had increased to 3.1 seconds with the running order behind the same although Hickman was now only 0.3 seconds adrift of Todd. By Ramsey, Dunlop’s lead had stretched again and was now 4.5 seconds but Hickman had overhauled Todd for third with Coward doing the same to McGuinness for sixth.
Up and down Snaefell for the first time and with an opening lap of 134.519mph, Dunlop led Harrison by 6.2s. The Kawasaki man was 4.9s clear of Hickman who, in turn, held a slender half second advantage over Todd. Hillier still ran in fifth after also lapping at more than 132mph, which made him the fastest Yamaha rider ever around the Mountain Course, with the top ten completed by Coward, McGuinness, Brookes, Dominic Herbertson and Shaun Anderson.
Mike Browne was an early caller into the pits at the end of lap one before continuing but back at the head of the field and Dunlop added another second to his lead by the time he swept through Glen Helen for the second time. Indeed, the Ulsterman was increasing the gap at every timing point as he appeared on course to set a new outright lap record.
Through Ramsey, the gap was 10.1seconds with Harrison 8.3 seconds ahead of Hickman who had pulled clear of Todd who was now coming under pressure from Hillier, the gap between the two hovering around two seconds. Coward was still in a good sixth with both him and Hillier having overtaken seventh placed McGuinness on the road.
A second lap speed of 135.046mph meant Dunlop fell just short of the outright lap record but, more importantly, his lead over Harrison had gone out to 14.6s as he came into the pits for his first stop. Hickman was now 6s behind Harrison but 19s clear of Todd who had stretched out the gap to Hillier to 7.5 seconds. Coward remained in sixth with McGuinness, Brookes, Herbertson and Anderson the running order behind.
In a repeat of Saturday’s Supersport race, Dunlop was controlling the race from the front with Hickman slowly reeling Harrison in as they battled for second whilst Hillier was now up to fourth having pulled four seconds clear of Todd halfway round lap three.
At half race distance, Dunlop’s lead had gone up to 18.8s but there was disappointment for Todd whose race was over as he pulled into the pits to retire. That elevated Hillier up to fourth with Coward and McGuinness now up to fifth and sixth respectively and, further back, Rob Hodson moved into the top ten.
A fourth lap speed of 134.192mph meant Dunlop’s lead went over 20 seconds for the first time with Harrison still keeping Hickman at bay. The fab three were more than a minute clear of the rest of the field with Hillier, Coward and McGuinness still running in fourth to sixth after more 130mph+ laps. Brookes, Herbertson, Hodson and Michael Rutter filled the rest of the top ten positions.
The second and final pit stop at the end of the fourth lap saw the gaps change slightly with Dunlop’s lead back down to 19 seconds but, crucially, now just 3.6 seconds between Harrison and Hickman. Coward had also closed to within seven seconds of Hillier.
Dunlop was able to control the race over the final two laps, despite Hickman’s late charge and came home for his second win of the week with Harrison completing the podium in third.
Hillier and Coward were rewarded for their fine rides with fourth and fifth as McGuinness, Brookes, Herbertson, Rutter and Anderson completed the top ten.