2015: Isle of Man TT Round-Up

The 2015 Isle of Man TT is certainly one that will live in the memory for a long time. Ian Hutchinson made an impressive comeback, lap records were broken and there was plenty of hard fought racing.

The first week of the fortnight was blighted by bad weather – rain and high winds wrecking havoc with the schedules. It wasn’t until the Wednesday of practice week that many riders got their first times on the board. Lightweights and Newcomers got some running in on Saturday but Monday practice was cancelled and Tuesday was untimed because of the conditions.

Again there were delays when the racing itself was supposed to commence. The Superbike and Sidecar races were scheduled to take part on Saturday but were postponed. Initially the Sidecar race was delayed until Saturday evening but eventually – due to a number of circumstances – both races were cancelled completely for the Saturday. The Superbike race was rescheduled for Sunday while the first Sidecar race was pushed back to Monday.

The big news prior to the Superbike race was Michael Dunlop’s last minute switch from Milwaukee Yamaha to BMW but it was Bruce Anstey who stole the headlines on Sunday when he won the race – his first Superbike TT victory. Ian Hutchinson was a welcome returnee to the podium and he promised there was more to come in the following races. James Hillier completed the podium. Behind the leading trio John McGuinness was fourth with William Dunlop in fifth. Also in the top ten were Michael Rutter, Dan Kneen, Peter Hickman, Lee Johnston, and David Johnson. Guy Martin was an early retirement – pulling off at Ballagarey – while Gary Johnson, Conor Cummins and Ivan Lintin were amongst the others failing to finish the race. Michael Dunlop had an off after an incident involving a backmarker and injured his shoulder and wrist which hampered him for the rest of the week.

The Superbike proved to be William Dunlop’s one and only race of the week as he was forced to pull out due to extensive bruising and a broken rib which were sustained in a practice crash. He was one of the favourites going into the Supersport race. It was Ian Hutchinson who took the win, however, blowing the competition away and finishing eight seconds clear of Bruce Anstey on corrected time. Gary Johnson completed the podium, ahead of Lee Johnston, Guy Martin, James Hillier, John McGuinness, Conor Cummins, Dan Kneen, and Michael Rutter. Dean Harrison was an early retirement when he pulled off at Crosby Crossroads while Keith Amor had an off at Stella Maris resulting in him withdrawing from the rest of the week due to possible fractures.

In the first Sidecar race of the event, Ben and Tom Birchall were the victorious partnership. The brothers – who crashed while leading one of last year’s races – broke the race time record and completed the second ever fastest Sidecar race lap at the TT. They finished the race over 20 seconds clear of John Holden and Dan Sayle in second, with last year’s winners Conrad Harrison and Mike Aylott in third. One of the pre-race favourites Dave Molyneux and passenger Benjamin Binns retired from the race on the first lap. Also in the top ten were Ian Bell & Carl Bell, Alan Founds & Tom Peters, Gary Bryan & Jamie Winn, Gary Knight & Jason Crowe, Matt Dix & Shaun Parker, Robert Handcock & Aki Alto, and Wayne Lockey & Mark Sayers.

Ian Hutchinson backed up his Supersport win with another victory, this time in the Superstock class. He beat the previous race time record by 32 seconds, something the next three riders were also within. Ian Hutchinson beat Michael Dunlop by 17 seconds while a late charge by Lee Johnston saw him get on the podium ahead of James Hillier, while also completing his first ever 130mph lap of the TT course. Peter Hickman was a highly impressive fifth, ahead of David Johnson, Guy Martin, John McGuinness, Bruce Anstey and Conor Cummins. It was another disappointing race for Guy Martin – having been given a 30 second time penalty for exceeding pit lane speed limit in the first Supersport race, he struggled to get the bike started after his pit-stop in the Superstocks. He had been in a good position to fight for a podium.

The TT Zero Challenge saw John McGuinness break the lap record with a 119.279mph. He edged closer to Joey Dunlop’s TT wins record with his 22nd win around the Mountain Course, beating Mugen team-mate Bruce Anstey and Lee Johnston. Last minute TT Zero entrant Guy Martin finished in fourth place. He was standing in for injured team-mate William Dunlop, riding the Victory bike like Lee Johnston. Robert Wilson and Michael Sweeney were the other riders who completed the lap.

The second Supersport race signalled a hat-trick of wins for Ian Hutchinson who this time beat Bruce Anstey and Guy Martin. The advantage over second was 15 seconds. Behind the podium finishers, James Hillier was in fourth with Gary Johnson, Lee Johnston, and Conor Cummins coming home in fifth, sixth and seventh respectively. John McGuinness, Dan Kneen, and David Johnson rounded out the top ten. Michael Dunlop had been a doubt ahead of the race due to his injuries and he pulled into the pits at the end of the first lap. Dean Harrison suffered another early retirement when he pulled off at Ballaugh.

The Birchall brothers made it two out of two, securing another win in the Sidecar class. It was another record beating race time, while the top two also beat the existing lap record. The Birchall brothers were the first to do it, lapping at 116.667mph but this was soon beaten by Dave Molyneux and Benjamin Binns with a 116.783. The latter partnership finished in second, eight seconds down on the leading duo on corrected time. John Holden and Dan Sayle secured another podium finish in third. Conrad Harrison and Mike Aylott finished fourth, while Ian and Carl Bell came home fifth.  Also in the top ten were Matt Dix & Shaun Parker, Wayne Lockey & Mark Sayers, Steve Ramsden & Matty Ramsden, Robert Handcock & Aki Aalto, and Tony Baker & Fiona Baker-Milligan.

The Lightweight class were first up on the final day of racing. Last year’s winners RC Express were victorious once again, this time with Ivan Lintin riding their bike. It was his first TT win and he beat James Hillier and Michael Rutter. Most riders chose to pit at the end of the first lap of the three lap race, but Jamie Hamilton, Michael Sweeney and Derek McGee were amongst those pitting on lap two. The move gave Jamie Hamilton the brief race lead on corrected time – after he had struggled to get away at the start line and dropped behind James Cowton on the road – and he went on to finish fifth with James Cowton fourth. Dan Cooper was fifth ahead of Michael Russell, Mark Miller, Connor Behan, and Danny Webb. Ryan Farquhar retired from the race – after he had picked up a 30 second time penalty in the pits – while Lee Johnston also retired. Gary Johnson clearly had problems at the start, quickly being caught and passed on the road by James Hillier, and he eventually retired, as did Martin Jessopp.

After his successes earlier in the week, many expected Ian Hutchinson to win the Senior TT. Failing that, could Sunday’s Superbike winner Bruce Anstey get another win? It was neither of the two, however, as John McGuinness powered to a record breaking win. Ian Hutchinson had been leading by two seconds on corrected time at the start of the second lap when the race was red flagged due to an accident involving Jamie Hamilton. Recent updates on the Ballyclare rider’s condition say he is critical but stable.

When the race restarted it was John McGuinness who took the advantage, breaking Bruce Anstey’s overall lap record from last year. John McGuinness completed a lap of 132.701mph, while Guy Martin, Michael Dunlop and James Hillier were also quicker than the previous record with their fastest laps. The Morecambe Missile’s 23rd TT victory was also his seventh in the Senior – drawing him level with Mike Hailwood. James Hillier and Ian Hutchinson joined him on the podium with Guy Martin coming home fourth behind. Michael Dunlop was fifth, Conor Cummins sixth, and Peter Hickman was seventh. The fastest ever newcomer also set his first ever 131mph, after joining the 130 Club on the first lap of the race. Rounding out the top ten finishers were Bruce Anstey, David Johnson and Michael Rutter.

Three wins and two podiums saw Ian Hutchinson secure the TT Championship. Dan Cooper was the leading privateer while the Birchall brothers dominated the Sidecar class.

I would like to send my best wishes to all those injured this past fortnight. On injured riders, an update posted by Manx Radio has stated that Michael Sweeney is described as comfortable, Roy Richardson is stable and Graham English has been transferred to a hospital closer to home. Tony Thirkell, Dean Kilkenny, Keith Amor, Alex Pickett, Scott Wilson, Marc Maier, and Jake Lowther have all been released from hospital. Speedy recovery also to William and Michael Dunlop as well.

My thoughts very much remain with Jamie Hamilton. They are also with the family and friends of Franck Petricola, who sadly lost his life during practice week. The French rider was a newcomer at the Isle of Man TT and had just come from competing in his first North West 200.

The Isle of Man TT may be over for another year but there is still a lot of action to come on the roads including Kells and the Barry Sheene Festival at Scarborough this coming weekend.

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