Michael Dunlop has thrown down the gauntlet ahead of tomorrow’s RST Superbike race at the 2017 Isle of Man TT Races, fuelled by Monster Energy, with a lap of 131.062mph in Saturday morning’s qualifying session.
After the session Michael Dunlop said: "I'm happy to do the lap, but we have suffered with the lack of track time and we're still working on setup. It's the first time this bike has been round here, so we've been changing lots of things each time we go out. The time's good but we've got to ride at that pace for six laps tomorrow, so we'll see how we go."
After a slight delay due to a medical issue at Glen Lough, the morning practice session got underway at 10.54am with David Johnson and Ian Hutchinson leading the field away on their Superbikes followed by James Hillier, Michael Rutter, Gary Johnson and Dean Harrison.
Conditions all around the 37.73-mile Mountain Course were ideal and Hutchinson was first to complete a lap on the Tyco BMW at 129.89mph although this was upstaged by Dunlop’s 131mph+ lap on the Bennetts Suzuki.
Dan Kneen was also quicker than Hutchinson with Peter Hickman and Harrison the only other riders above 129mph. Dunlop wasn’t able to improve upon his lap second time around but Hickman went second quickest on the Smiths Racing BMW with a lap of 130.629mph.
Hutchinson moved up to third with 130.327mph but Kneen was only three hundredths of a second behind with a lap of 130.324mph, which was his quickest ever lap of the Mountain Course, albeit unofficially. Michael Rutter (Bathams/SMT Racing BMW) was the fifth and final rider to break the 130mph barrier with Bruce Anstey and James Hillier getting into the 129s.
David Johnson and Josh Brookes both lapped at just under 127mph on the Nortons whilst impressive laps were recorded by, among others, Derek Sheils, Jamie Coward, Phil Crowe and Andrew Dudgeon.
As the session wore on, the riders constantly pitted to either make changes to their Superbike or switch to their Supersport or Superstock machines and Lee Johnston was quickest in both of the latter. However, he crashed out towards the end of the session at Greeba Castle, sustaining minor injuries, and the session came to an early end. It was later reported that Johnston would be transferred to Liverpool for further assessment and treatment. Joe Akroyd on his Superstock machine was reported off at Glentramman and was also transferred to Liverpool while Danny Webb sustained a shoulder injury in an incident at Laurel Bank.
After a break for Sidecar qualifying, the solo’s were back on track at 2.20pm with a session for the Supersport and Lightweight machines but the session was soon red flagged after an incident involving Paul Jordan and Bjorn Gunnarsson at Sarah’s Cottage. Both were taken to Nobles Hospital with Jordan sustaining a wrist injury and Gunnarsson complaining of neck pains but both were later discharged.
At 3.25pm, the action resumed and William Dunlop was quickest out the blocks with a lap of 125.297mph to go to the top of the Supersport leaderboard. Dean Harrison wasn’t far behind with 125.188mph with Ian Hutchinson, James Hillier and Peter Hickman also over 124mph.
However, the session was stopped due to a non-racing incident at Union Mills eventually restarting just after 4pm.
Hutchinson went slightly quicker to maintain his third place with Gary Johnson improving to 123.336mph and seventh overall. A superb performance came from newcomer Adam McLean with a lap of 120.499mph whilst fellow debutante Joey Thompson also improved, his best lap being 117.287mph.
In the Lightweight class, Martin Jessopp set the fastest lap of the week with a speed of 116.535mph on the Riders Motorcycles Kawasaki. 2015 and 2016 winner Ivan Lintin was less than half a second behind in second with Hickman’s final lap of 116.239mph seeing him jump up to third on the KMR/IEG Kawasaki.
Dan Cooper also lapped in excess of 116mph to place fourth ahead of Stefano Bonetti with Michael Dunlop putting in his first laps of the week on the McAdoo Racing Kawasaki to go sixth at 115.572mph. Gary Johnson, Josh Brookes and James Cowton were the other riders to lap at more than 115mph whilst McLean was again flying in tenth.
Tomorrow’s schedule, the first race day of the 2017 Isle of Man TT Races fuelled by Monster Energy is as follows:
12.45 - Road closed Barrule Park, Ramsey to Bungalow
13.00 - Road closed Bungalow to Creg Ny Baa
13.30 - Roads closed rest of the course
14.00 - RST Superbike Race (6 laps)
16.25 - Sidecar Qualifying (1 lap)
16.40 - TT Zero Qualifying (1 lap)
17.30 - Roads scheduled to be open except mountain section
18.30 - Roads scheduled to be open around the course