Now that the Superbike TT is over, we finally have a chance to catch our breath. The past seven days have been intense and Monday’s rest day provides some much-needed respite for all involved.
Fans have sizzled trackside while riders have toiled in the summer heat. Records have been smashed and history has been made. TT ‘23 has come to the boil and a day off gives everyone a welcome chance to simmer down and gather their thoughts.
Right from the start of practice it was clear that lap records never stood a chance this year, especially with the island basked in Mediterranean conditions. Resurfacing on the run to Sulby and at Tower bends has allowed smoother, faster riding.
The Department of Infrastructure or ‘Bun Troggalys’ (as they are known in Manx Gaelic) have been busy during the winter months and that has been reflected in the lap times.
Of course, the riders are also pushing bloody hard, which helps. The holy-trinity of Dunlop, Hickman and Harrison have been visibly fast wherever you have seen them on the course. All three have looked so aggressive and determined, yet smooth with it. Quite rightly, they are making all the headlines and receiving the plaudits.
Such is their dominance, you could quite easily forget that there is a whole field of riders plugging away behind them, each on a personal mission, fulfilling life-time ambitions and creating their own history.
Three of that supporting cast are Aussies and they’ve each been having a tough time trying to tame their machines so far.
Davo Johnson is away at No. 1 which for some can be a great honour but for others, a poisoned chalice. Unless the first man away is on race winning pace from the outset, he is the rabbit for the dogs to chase and can quite often be mercilessly hunted down.
Unfortunately for the Adelaide man, set up issues have hampered his progress on his favoured Fireblade Superbike and he struggles with his size on the smaller 600.
Johnson dubbed the Supersport contest the ‘mini-bike race’, stating that he would be happy with a top-eight which is exactly what he got. So, it’s not all bad… the 40-year-old is still collecting silver replicas and has time to turn things around.
Hopefully the Jackson Racing boys (who are receiving help from the injured Lee Johnston’s crew) can crack the code and put something more stable under him for the later big bike races with Davo searching for shock settings that will get him comfortable enough to really press on.
There’s no doubting that he can recapture his 2019 form if they can. Pre-Covid, Davo stuck a Fireblade on the podium in the Stock TT before going on to win the Superbike race at the Classic TT.
Josh Brookes has been plugging away on the FHO BMW, quietly going under the radar and getting back up to speed. The double British Superbike champion hadn’t taken part in the TT since 2018 (and that was on the much-maligned Norton).
Much has been made of Hickman’s stability woes with his Superbike and Brookes is riding for the same team, but he’s been tight-lipped on any issues he may be having… However, Josh is in a different situation in that he won’t be expected to push the envelope far enough to smash lap records and win races, and he is riding a Superstock bike across all the big bore contests and not the full fat fire-breathing monster that Hickman has underneath him.
A solid seventh today equates to a good start to the week and Brookesy will enjoy another go during the Stock TT tomorrow before getting onto the little Dafabet Kawasaki later in the afternoon. After so many years away, he would have to be happy if he took home a fresh bundle of silver replicas for the collection.
Poor Rennie Scaysbrook has had a torrid time. He eventually split with Wilson Craig after a disastrous practice week. Thankfully, the Kibosh BMW team stepped in at the last minute to save the Pike’s Peak winner’s TT.
Unfortunately, an electrical fault put Scaysbrook out on the fifth lap of yesterday’s Superbike TT, “It was like someone had pulled the plug out of the wall…”
Rennie did the warm-up lap and so was actually on his seventh lap of the day when it all came to an end. But it will all be welcome track time for the the Aussie who only raced in the shorter Supersport races last year, and he at least now has something to build on.
Other stories of the day include Dominic Herberston’s first 130 mph lap. The Northumberland arborist was absolutely speechless when told his lap time after the big six-lapper. “Say that again,” was all he could muster when Beth Espey relayed the news post-race.
Those who are familiar with Herberston’s “Chasing the racing” podcast will know just how much joining that 130 club means to him… they will also be aware of the significance of him being described as speechless.
Herberston had a race long battle on the road with Michael Rutter and his wailing RCV. It was quite the sight to behold, with Herberton coming home eighth and Rutter eventually finishing ninth.
Austria’s Julian Trummer became the fastest ever rider from continental Europe when he clocked a lap of 128.14 MPH during the SBK race. “What a day! … We’ve known this for a long time, now it is on paper,” he quipped.
Trummer came home a respectable 18th in the big race. Germany’s David Datzer, Italy’s Stefano Bonetti and Spain’s Raul Torras Martinez will be gunning for that time for the rest of the week now that Trummer has laid down the marker.
The local Manx riders are having no luck and were down to the bare bones by Sunday morning. The injured Nathan Harrison was ruled out before the event began after a heavy crash at the NW200 and Conor Cummins ended up on a drip in hospital mid-practice week due to a mystery virus.
The Padgett’s rider will be hoping to be fit enough to take part when racing resumes on Tuesday, but it’s an unfortunate situation for him and the local fans. The only Manx man to finish the SBK TT was Michael Evans from Santon.
If there is one man who could possibly gate-crash the Dunlop-Hickman-Harrison party, it is Cummins’ team-mate; Davey Todd. Coming into the event, based on his performances at the North West 200, many would have believed that the Saltburn rider was a genuine challenger.
Indeed, in the early stages of the Superbike TT he headed Hickman, circulating in third before retiring in the pits with bike problems. Todd scored a slightly lacklustre fifth in the opening Supersport contest and it will be interesting to see if he can make the leap and get in amongst the hustle and bustle of these high-speed podium battles.
As things stand, James Hillier and Jamie Coward are fighting it out for fourth position and hoping to pick up the pieces if the usual podium men should suffer misfortune.
John McGuinness plugs away behind them. Although it’s unlikely McPint can get in amongst the lead men, he is showing that he can still do the business and is absolutely deserving of a factory Honda, despite being in his 50s.
For many it’s a great privilege to see a man who set the bench mark for so long still out there lapping as fast as he is.
But for now, the island sleeps. Monday will see some teams frantically strip and rebuild motors while other enjoy some down time and relax; the roads will be open all day and some sort of normality will return to the Isle of Man for 24 hours.
We do it all again on Tuesday with the Stocks and the Twins… Surely Dunlop can’t win them both? Can he?
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