After the three years of absence enforced upon them by the invisible enemy of Covid-19 the Isle of Man TT Races fuelled by Monster Energy roared back into life this afternoon. The weather was kind; a cool northerly breeze being the only slight negative.
Conditions on track were ideal and the speeds were surprising given the long absence and high number of changes to the course. One of those changes was seen at today’s vantage point of Glen Tramman. The very high hedges and trees that lined the track were cut back; improving the corner significantly from a racing perspective. The new openness made the corner look completely different. The land adjacent to the course is privately owned and a restricted area; photographers with media accreditation will need permission from the owner to take photographs there. The action was excellent and it was great to see Glenn Irwin’s long wait for his debut come to an end; he was neat and fast as he went through.
The official press release has given us all of the details; the speeds surprisingly high on a green track. Rising star Davey Todd (Milenco by Padgett’s Motorcycles) topped the Superbike class with a speed of 127.492mph ahead of Dean Harrison (DAO Racing Kawasaki, 126.984mph) and John McGuinness MBE (Honda Racing UK, 124.955mph).
Peter Hickman posted the third quickest lap of the afternoon, 126.49mph, onboard the Gas Monkey Garage by FHO Racing machine, to lead the way in the Superstock category with Michael Dunlop (MD Racing) fastest in the Supersport class at 124.103mph and Jamie Coward (KTS Racing by Steadplan) the pacesetter in the Supertwin division at 117.573mph.
Meanwhile, newcomer Glenn Irwin had a superb first session with the Honda Racing UK rider lapping at a stunning 122.616mph on his Superstock Fireblade. It was a similar case in the sidecars with newcomer Harry Payne, with Mark Wilkes in the chair, putting in a superb performance at 110.364mph.
After a short delay to lock the course down, the TT soared back into life at 13.50pm with the newcomers getting their first taste of the 37.73-mile Mountain Course. TT Rider Liaison Officers Richard Quayle and John Barton were joined by ten-time TT winner Ian Lougher in taking Jamie Cringle, Glenn Irwin, Milo Ward, Ilja Caljouw, Joe Loughlin, Craig Szczypek and Jason Burrill for their maiden lap on closed roads. Rennie Scaysbrook was unable to take part in the lap due to electrical problems; he must complete it on Monday or will be out of the meeting.
At 14.15, the main session started and it was Michael Rutter (Bathams Ales) who led the field away followed ten seconds later by Harrison, the duo both Superbike-mounted. Lee Johnston was next to go on his Ashcourt Racing Yamaha Supersport machine with Ian Hutchinson (Milwaukee BMW Motorrad) and Michael Dunlop (Hawk Racing) in hot pursuit on their Superbikes.
First to complete the lap was Rutter at 121.111mph with Harrison next across the line at 120.442, the Bradford rider immediately pulling back into the pits. They were both upstaged by Hutchinson who lapped at 122.315mph but it was Hickman who was quickest of all, the outright lap record holder posting a speed of 124.786mph on his Superstock mount.
The similarly mounted Milenco by Padgett’s Motorcycles duo of Conor Cummins and Todd slotted into second and third at 124.280mph and 123.237mph respectively. Meanwhile, Hutchinson was knocked off the top spot in the Superbike class by 23-time winner John McGuinness MBE with the Honda Racing UK man lapping at 122.819mph.
Jamie Coward moved into third at 122.105mph with Dominic Herbertson (121.501mph) and Derek Sheils (121.276mph) pushing Rutter down to sixth. Quickest newcomer overall on the first lap was Loughlin at 111.136mph which was half a second quicker than Irwin’s 111.093mph.
Second time around and, understandably, the pace increased at the head of the field and it was again the three Superstock riders of Hickman, Cummins and Todd who were quickest overall, Hickman’s lap of 126.485mph putting him 2.5s quicker than Cummins (126.19). Todd was a further second back in third (126.072) with all three lapping under 18 minutes.
McGuinness (124.955) was again the quickest in the Superbike class followed by Hutchinson (123.435), Sam West (123.1) and Sheils (123.047). Irwin’s second lap, on his Superstock Honda, was an impressive 116.463mph with the Supersport-mounted Loughlin upping his speed to 113.179mph, whilst Ward had now broken the 110mph barrier with a lap of 111.381mph.
Harrison was back out on track on his Superbike machine and his second lap of 124.393mph put him second quickest behind McGuinness, but Hickman was encountering issues on his Superbike as he toured round Ramsey Hairpin. James Hillier then bumped Harrison briefly back to third, the RICH Energy OMG Racing man lapping at 124.831mph, but on his third lap Harrison not only went quickest in the Superbike class but also overall with a speed of 126.984mph.
Hickman made it back to the pits and returned to the fray on his Superstock BMW but Cummins wasn’t as lucky as he stopped at the Mountain Box. Teammate Todd was faring better though and after lapping at 126.752mph, his final lap of 127.492mph sent him quickest overall, with West moving up to third in the Superbikes with 125.216mph. Irwin’s fifth lap saw him break the 121mph barrier to slot into 13th overall in the Superstock class.
At 15.30, it was the turn of the Supersport/ Supertwin qualifying session with Dunlop (122.512mph) the quickest Supersport runner in the early stages from Harrison (122.042mph) and Coward (121.925mph). Gary Johnson (Dafabet Racing) was setting the pace in the Supertwins at 114.43mph followed by Aprilia-mounted Stefano Bonetti (113.446mph) and the Paton of Rutter (112.316mph).
On the second lap, Coward moved to the top of the Supersport speeds with a lap of 123.311mph but only briefly as Dunlop’s second lap was 124.103mph and there was change too in the Supertwins with Bonetti upping his speed to 114.121mph and John Barton slotting in behind at 113.931mph.
As the solo session came to a conclusion, there was no change at the top of the Supersport leaderboard but Hickman (K2 Trooper Beer by PHR Performance) moved into third with a speed of 122.949mph.
Late laps though from both Coward and Michael Dunlop (MD Racing) at 117.753mph and 116.631mph respectively moved them up to first and second in the Supertwins category with Johnson slipping back to third ahead of Dominic Herbertson, James Hind and Rutter. Newcomer Loughlin also impressed with the seventh fastest time (113.361) on the Team ILR/Mark Coverdale Paton.
With the sun continuing to shine, the Sidecar class got their first session underway at 16.30pm, the newcomers having had their speed-controlled laps at the beginning of the afternoon but Ryan and Callum Crowe (Haven Homes) were early casualties stopping in Kirk Michael village.
Leading the way on the road were the Birchalls on their Haith Honda and they completed their opening lap at 110.427mph but that was only good enough for second with Peter Founds/Jevan Walmsley (FHO Racing) going quickest at 112.426mph. Tim Reeves with newcomer passenger Kevin Rousseau had an encouraging start at 109.107mph to go fourth.
That put them one place behind newcomer driver Lee Crawford, with Scott Hardie in the chair, who put in a stunning lap of 109.292mph whilst fellow newcomer Harry Payne, partnered by Mark Wilkes, was also going well at exactly 108mph. That put them eighth quickest behind regulars Gary Bryan/Phil Hyde, Conrad Harrison/Andrew Winkle and Lewis Blackstock/Patrick Rosney.
On the second lap, the Birchalls improved to 111.908mph with Payne/Wilkes jumping up to a sensational third at 110.364mph. They were the only three crews to break the 110mph barrier with Bryan/Hyde, Crawford/Hardie and Reeves/Rousseau completing the top six.
Next practice is scheduled for Monday evening.