Stunning Supersport win
Hard-charger equals Hailwood’s TT record but he was pushed all the way by Hillier
Michael Dunlop equalled Mike Hailwood’s tally of 14 TT wins by taking victory on his MD Racing Yamaha in Monday’s opening Supersport TT.
It was consolation for the Ballymoney man’s breakdown in the Superbike TT as he managed the tricky conditions perfectly to win by 13 seconds from James Hillier on the JG Speedfit Kawasaki and third-placed Peter Hickman.
“The conditions weren’t too bad out there,” Dunlop said after heavy rain had soaked the circuit overnight and led to a three-hour delay to the start of the race.
“I took it steady on the first lap. I think we maybe picked the wrong rear tyre. But I settled in nicely and in fairness to James he rode hard at the start”
Hillier had led on the opening circuit and even when Dunlop got in front on the second lap, the Kawasaki rider was never any more than a couple of seconds adrift until the third lap when Dunlop started to build a lead.
“I opened up the throttle on the third lap to get a bit of a gap,” heconfirmed.
Dunlop is the holder of the Supersport TT lap record but he hasn’t won a 600cc TT since 2014 and the 28-year-old was delighted to break Ian Hutchinson’s four-in-a-row winning streak.
He added: “I am really happy to be winning 600 races again. It has been a bleak time but it was good to win today, especially with some new sponsors onboard.” DJ Carl Cox, who now backs Dunlop on his own MD Racing machines, was one of the first to congratulate the Northern Irishman.
Dunlop also made a veiled reference to the Pistongate row that surrounded the legality of the pistons in Hutchinson’s Yamaha for his 2016 wins.
“It’s been a few years since I won a Supersport race and there have been a few other things happening since since then too,” he said.
“There are a lot of factors without pointing at anything.”
Hutchy finished in fifth on the Mcams Yamaha, over a minute behind Dunlop.
Dunlop said he was proud to have equalled Hailwood’s record with his sixth Supersport TT win.
“Mike was a legend and it is nice to have done this today.”
Dunlop’s Supersport win now sets up another week of rivalry between himself and Superbike race-winner, Hutchinson. The pair will go head-tohead in the second Supersport race, the Superstock event and the closing Senior TT. Dunlop didn’t hide his disappointment at breaking down while leading the Superbike race on the Bennett’s Suzuki and he made it clear he wants to avenge the defeat to his arch enemy in Friday’s blue riband race.
He said bluntly: “We definitely have the pace for the Senior. And we have more pace. I was ready to pull the trigger when we stopped in Sunday’s race. We were making the impossible possible by leading on a new bike.”
Dunlop admitted he had struggled to find a set-up for the new GSX-R with practice being curtailed by bad weather. “I only did one flying lap all week and that was to check fuel consumption. Maybe if we had had another couple of laps the problem we encountered would have shown up earlier. But it is a new bike and we showed that we could lead the race and that was nice.”
The Ballymoney man was keeping his cards close to his chest about what the problem was, but it is understood there was an engine failure on the Suzuki, forcing his retirement on the second lap at Handley’s.
“What we need to find out now is if the problem we had is something that we can overcome and there is only one way to do that – more laps.”