Ian Hutchinson wins thrilling opening RST Superbike TT
Ian Hutchinson took his 15th victory at the Isle of Man TT races fuelled by Monster Energy when he took a thrilling RST Superbike race on Sunday afternoon by five seconds from Peter Hickman, after Hickman had closed the gap down to 1.6s on the final lap.
Hutchinson’s final run over the Mountain on the Tyco BMW saw him edge clear from Hickman’s Smiths Racing machine, who claimed his maiden TT podium, with early race leader Dean Harrison taking third.
James Hillier (JG Speedfit Kawasaki) led at Glen Helen on the opening lap by 0.8s from Harrison with Hutchinson and Michael Dunlop tied for third but on the run to Ramsey Hairpin, Harrison was 1.3s quicker to turn his deficit into a lead of 0.5s. Dunlop was now in third, 0.7s behind Hillier, with Hutchinson, Hickman and Conor Cummins completing the top six. The returning Guy Martin on the Honda Racing machine was out though having crashed, fortunately without injury, at Doran’s Bend.
By the Bungalow, Dunlop was now in the lead and with an opening lap of 131.135mph he led Harrison by 1.8s. Harrison in turn was only half a second ahead of Hillier with Hutchinson and Hickman holding onto fourth and fifth. The leading five were all above 130mph with Dan Kneen up to sixth on the opening lap.
Second time around and Dunlop still led at Glen Helen but Harrison was quicker over the first nine miles to reduce the gap to 1.4s and by the time the riders passed through Ballaugh, he was leading Hillier by 5.3s with Dunlop and the Bennetts Suzuki out after retiring at Handley’s.
At Ramsey, Harrison’s extended his lead to 7.5s but Hutchinson was now up into second although he was only 0.4s clear of Hillier and at the Bungalow the latter had turned the tables, also reducing Harrison’s lead to 6.5s.
A second lap speed of 130.907mph meant Harrison’s lead was 5.4s at the pit stop with Hillier still in second and 1.6s clear of new third placed man Hickman. Hutchinson had dropped back to fourth but Hillier lost time getting away. The Manx pairing of Cummins and Kneen were now in fifth and sixth but they too had trouble at the pits with Cummins having a lengthy stop and Kneen picking up a 30s speeding penalty.
Early on the third lap, the leaderboard read Harrison, Hutchinson, Hickman and Hillier as Kneen dropped back to ninth and Cummins 17th and that meant David Johnson moved up to fifth on the Norton and Michael Rutter sixth.
By half race distance, Hutchinson led for the first time but only by 0.4s and only ten and a half seconds covered the top four with Hickman and Hillier holding station in third and fourth. Johnson and Rutter were still in fifth and sixth as Kneen, Bruce Anstey, William Dunlop and Brookes completed the top ten.
On lap four, there was little between the leaders. Harrison moved back into the lead at Glen Helen by 0.6s, the same margin at the next point through Ballaugh. However, by Ramsey Hutchinson was marginally back in front with just 0.07s separating the leading pair. Hickman was only five seconds further back in third but Anstey stopped at Ramsey hairpin before continuing and Steve Mercer and Gary Johnson were out at Cruickshanks and Sulby Bridge respectively.
Coming into the pits at the end of lap four and there was still only ten seconds covering the leading quartet but Hutchinson’s prowess up and down the Mountain gave him a 4s lead and it was now Hickman in second. His gap to Harrison was only 1.6s with Hillier a further four seconds back in fourth.
The pit stops saw Hutchinson lead with a 10s lead over Hickman but Hillier was back up to third with Harrison losing time and dropping back to fourth. Indeed, Hillier was up to second at Glen Helen as he circulated on the road with Hutchinson and the latter’s lead had risen considerably to 9.5s. Two more retirements though were Cummins and last year’s Privateer’s Champion Dan Hegarty.
Going into the final lap, Hutchinson still led but the gap to Hickman was only 7.9s at Glen Helen and by Ballaugh it was only 2.5s. Harrison was now in third as Hillier experienced fuel problems and the thrilling race still saw just 9.5s split the top four.
Hickman had reduced the gap further still at Ramsey Hairpin to 1.6s and it was all going to come down to the final run up and down the Mountain. And with a final lap of 130.738mph, it was Hutchinson who prevailed by 5s despite Hickman the quicker over the final 37.73 miles at 131.103mph.
Harrison claimed third ahead of Hillier with Kneen overcoming his pit lane penalty to take fifth from Rutter albeit by only 0.135s. Johnson, Brookes, William Dunlop and Martin Jessopp completed the top ten.
Horst Saiger was the first privateer home in 11th ahead of Sam West (12th) and Philip Crowe (14th).
Following the race an announcement was made about rider number 71, Davey Lambert, who was involved in an accident at Greeba Castle. He was taken to hospital where his condition was described as critically ill, with multiple injuries.