Dunlop grabs win number 19 in thrilling Lightweight TT
With Derek McGee out of contention following a spill at Greeba in qualifying, there was no number one on the startline for the postponed Bennetts Lightweight TT Race.
Instead the honour of being first away from the line fell to Davey Todd on the Norton 650 machine. Davey’s team mate John McGuiness was away second wearing the number three plate on an identical machine.
Italy’s Stefano Bonetti, looking to follow up on his success at the North West 200, had the Paton on the Glencrutchery Road 10 seconds behind McGuinness, giving him a very tempting target to chase down.
Lap record holder Michael Dunlop on a second Paton started in his customary #6 position.
Out to Glen Helen on lap one of the two lap race (shortened due to the postponements and delays of multiple races earlier in the week) the leader was Michael Dunlop, looking to repeat his 2018 race victory.
Jamie Coward, on the SB Tuning CMS Kawasaki slotted in behind Michael Dunlop, only 2.688 seconds back on the Northern Irish ace. Gary Johnson was third on a Ryan Farquhar prepared KMR, holding Bonetti off by just 0.724 seconds.
McGuinness was out of contention by Ballaugh, pulling up just past the bridge.
By the Hairpin Michael Dunlop had a four second lead on Coward, giving him a good margin on the long climb to Hailwood’s Heights, the highest section of the Course.
The climb took a toll on Michael’s pace, as the gap narrow by two seconds at the Bungalow,
Gary Johnson was holding on to third place at Ramsey, but Bonetti slid back one place as Lee Johnston took a 1.812 second lead on Bonetti, an advantage he’d stretched to 3.942 by the Bungalow, at which point Lee Johnston and Bonetti both passed Gary Johnson, another victim of the gruelling Mountain climb.
On the descent to Cronk-ny-mona Jamie Coward took the race lead, which he held through the start/finish line crossing, beginning the second and final lap with a narrow 0.748 second advantage over Michael Dunlop.
Unfortunately for Norton they were to start the second lap with only one bike still in contention as Davey Todd joined John McGuinness on the retirement list, pulling in at the pits. Peter Hickman continued to circulate in eighth place on his Norton.
The order at Glen Helen was Coward, Dunlop, Johnston but the gap between Coward and Dunlop was only 0.472 as Dunlop fought back to try and regain the lead. Johnston seemed to have lost contact with 1st / 2nd place battle, 12.953 seconds adrift and only 2.128 seconds ahead of Bonetti.
At Ballaugh the gap between Coward and Dunlop was only 0.163 seconds, and that had changed by Ramsey to a 1.431 second lead for Dunlop making the final crossing of the Mountain absolutely crucial.
The battle for first and second had seen Dunlop and Coward pull out a 19 second lead on Lee Johnston who had to defend his podium position from a charging Paul Jordan on the RC Express Kawasaki who had slipped past Bonetti at Ramsey.
At the Bungalow the press office timing system showed Coward had narrowed the gap to 1.158seconds on Dunlop.
Michael Dunlop took the chequered flag as the first bike on the road and then commenced a tense wait for Coward to cross the line. At Cronk-ny-Mona the gap was only 0.767 seconds.
As the clock ticked over and eyes were turned up Glencrutchery Road to see whether Coward could overhaul the 18-time TT winner. In the end it wasn’t to be. Despite a lap in excess of 122mph Coward was edged out by only 1.299 seconds but had the consolation of taking his first TT podium.
Lee Johnston was a solid third place on his Ashcourt Racing KMR Kawasaki. Paul Jordan had a great ride to finish fourth another 5.275 seconds down on Johnston and Michael Rutter edged ahead of Bonetti to finish fifth.