There must be something about racers and their beards. Somehow, they always end up being fast. I mean, really, really fast. I wonder if beards help with aerodynamics? Jokes aside though, that long beard seemed to work for Bruce Anstey. He was like a rocket during Sunday’s RST Superbike race. Not only did he kick off the 2015 Isle of Man TT with style and panache, he also scored for himself, an all-important 10th TT win. Giving him company on the podium was Ian Hutchinson making a super-strong comeback this year, and James Hillier.
The first TT race kicked off though with a three-minute delay. It soon became obvious though that there two men who were going to be the strongest contenders. There he was, Ian Hutchinson, the 35-year-old racer from Yorkshire on the strongest, most awesome comeback ever, clocking in amazing time and staying ahead. Well, staying ahead of almost everyone, except Bruce Anstey who still holds the outright lap record of 132.298mph.
The first lap saw race favourite Guy Martin out of the race after he stopped at Ballagarey. Hutchy led at Glen Helen by 0.2s with Anstey at 2nd place and Hillier at 3rd half a second behind. But by Ramsey, Hillier had taken the front with Hutchy back at 3rd. It didn’t matter though. The opening lap of 130.959 mph gave Hutchy the lead of 1.2s over Anstey with Hllier in third. Michael Dunlop was in 4th place, with John McGuinness, disappointingly at 5th.
By the second lap, Hutchy had increased the gap over Anstey. He was now 4.4s ahead. Hillier, Dunlop and McGuinness still holding their lap 1 places. The story repeated itself through the third lap as well. The only change was in the lead. Hutchy was now 4.79s ahead. Hillier had been replaced by Michael Dunlop on his BMW who was 13 seconds behind. Giving McGuinness company in the top 6 was teammate Conor Cummins. Cummins eventually retired from the race.
Even as we cheered – Hutchy for the win – Anstey was finding his pace and his form. As the Isle of Man TT press release put it, Anstey “reeled Hutchinson in and with a lap of 131.333mph, he was just 0.2s behind coming into the second pitstop”. It was a well-played strategy, as Anstey’s team turned the pitstop to the Kiwi’s advantage. Before we knew it, he was two and half seconds clear at Glen Helen. Anstey pulled away from Hutchy, increasing the gap, surely but steadily.
Behind, Dunlop had swung into action pushing his BMW and getting closer and closer to Hutchy. It looked like that inevitable tussle between Hutchy and Dunlop would come down to the final lap.
On the final lap, Anstey had built up a lead of 5.5s at Ballaugh. He crossed the line at 131.797mph, 10.9s ahead of Hutchy. This would be Hutchy’s first TT podium since 2010, and what an amazing podium it was! Meanwhile there was no sign of Dunlop, as Hillier came into to take 3rd and his first TT podium
All eyes were on the finish line as McGuinness, William Dunlop and Michael Rutter came in to complete the top 6. There was no sign of Michael Dunlop, as news trickled in of a red flag and crash at Nook. I must admit, my heart nearly came to a standstill. A TT crash cannot be taken lightly. It was later said that Dunlop’s charge ended in a crash at the Nook, after tangling with a slower rider. Dunlop was brought in, in an ambulance and was seen walking out with a limp.
Scott Wilson, the other rider involved in the accident was also taken by airmed to Nobles and is reported to have a broken clavicle.
An Isle of Man TT press release noted that, “Following the Dunlop incident, which resulted in the red flag, seventh place onwards was taken from the end of the fifth lap and so Dan Kneen, Peter Hickman, Lee Johnston and David Johnson completed the top ten.”
“Gary Johnson also crashed out on the last lap at Guthries but was reported as OK and will be fit for tomorrow’s races. Andy Lawson was taken by airmed to Nobles with neck and arm injuries after an accident at Guthries.”
As the race came to an end, as the anthem was played and champagne was sprayed, my pulse slowed and the rush of adrenalin ebbed. I realized that this was not the end. There is more TT in store this week, more madness, more heart-in-mouth action, and more fantastic racing. It is going to be wild!
Images courtesy Isle of Man TT Press Office