That’s the thing about the TT. No two days are the same. It will always throw you for a loop. There is one constant guarantee however. There is always the drama, of the heart-in-mouth, sweaty-palms variety; the kind that is perfect for stories that make legends. Like Tuesday afternoon on the island. The RL 360 Superstock race turned into a stunning display of raw power and dedication as Ian Hutchinson stormed to across the finish line to take his second win this season. He threw Michael Dunlop’s race record out of the window in the process…by 32 seconds! Meanwhile, Dunlop battled pain and exhaustion to take the second spot. Lee Johnston took the final place in a thrilling last lap by Lee Johnston by the skin of his very teeth.
It was Dunlop however who set the pace at the start of the race, leading at Glen Helen by 1.1s with James Hillier in the second, Hutchy at 3rd and Guy Martin at 4th. The Irishman seemed to put his stamp with an opening lap of 130.932 putting him in the lead 1.6s ahead of the Bingley Bullet. Martin had taken 3rd spot and was 3.3s behind. An Isle of Man TT press release noted that all three were over 130mph with Hillier, Johnston and Peter Hickman completing the top 6. The first half of the second lap seemed almost a carbon copy of the first, but Hutchinson had started to bring down the gap, which was down to .8s at Ramsey. Not one to give up that easy, Dunlop responded and bought the lead back up 1.9s. Meanwhile Martin had dropped back and was now 8 seconds off, and Johnston had posted his first 130mph lap.
It all boiled down to a fantastic pitstop by Paul Bird Motorsport Kawasaki, where the team also decided to change Hutchy’s rear tyre. It was a decision that would pay off. Hutchinson shot into the lead at Glen Helen, courtesy renewed grip and immediately extended his margin over Michael Dunlop to 2.7s. Things weren’t that great for Dunlop however, as his pitstop did not really work up to his expectations, and he ended up losing the gap he had gained. Guy Martin on the other hand had a disastrous stop.
Guy Martin’s official Facebook fan page posted the following statement after the race: “It was hard work out there today and even though we maybe didn’t quite have the perfect set-up, I made a strong start and the bike was flying; it was mint. 130mph from a standing start is a good enough first Superbike lap, never mind on a Stocker, and the second lap wasn’t much slower. We were in the running today, but what can you do. It’s just pure bad luck and only something the TT can throw at you.”
Even as Hutchinson was flying through the course, Michael Dunlop found himself struggling to keep up, battling against immense pain courtesy Sunday’s final lap Superbike crash. Dunlop later said, “I tried to push and dug deep but we lost time in the pits and at the end my body couldn’t take much more.”
Hutchinson meanwhile shattered the Superstock race record by 32 seconds and kept pushing. He crossed the line to the chequered flag 17.2s ahead of Dunlop and claimed his 10th TT win. Commenting on how he felt reaching the landmark 10 that sees him in the company of Giacomo Agostini, Stanley Woods, Ian Lougher, Rob Fisher and now Bruce Anstey, Hutchy smiled and said, “Yup. It’s nice!”
Hutchinson and Dunlop may have staked their claim on the 1st and 2nd spot, but the 3rd place was still up for grabs. Or at least it was at the last minute, when Lee Johnston stole the 3rd place right from under James Hillier’s nose, by a mere 0.270s with a lap of 130.851.
Johnston, who was celebrating his first TT podium, later said in the post-race conference: “It’s a little bit special especially sitting up here with these two guys, if you know what I mean. I have been coming for a few years, riding around, watching them step up and riding around parc ferme and stuff, so it is nice when you see Paul Phillips direct you into the winners’ enclosure… so absolutely over the moon to be totally honest.”
James Hillier took 4th place and Peter Hickman came 5th in just his second TT. Johnson and Martin came 6th and 7th with the three Honda riders John McGuiness, Bruce Anstey and Conor Cummins making up the remaining in the top 10.