NOT A SOUTHERN SOFTIE!
Michael Dunlop blast to three big bike victories in epic roads battle
Dean Harrison blitzed Senior TT winner Michael Dunlop to take victory in the feature race at the 2017 Southern 100.
The Bradford racer had been forced to watch as the Bennetts Suzuki star dominated the opening superbike races at the Manx event after his Silicone Kawasaki ZX-10R was ruled out by electrical problems. But in the race that really mattered Harrison was more than a match for Dunlop and Manxman Dan Kneen, who finished second on the DTR BMW.
“I’ve been trying to win that race for five years,” the 28-year-old smiled.
“It’s the one that everyone wants to win, to be the Southern 100 champion. It’s the one that goes down in history. I’ve finished second too many times.”
After trailing home a distant third to Dunlop and Kneen in the opening superbike encounter of the week, Harrison overcame engine problems, a faulty regulator, dead battery and a blown ECU on his big Kawasaki, to finally make it to the line in the feature race.
He said: “I have missed two races in the last couple of days and have had a few bad luck issues with the bike but I have just kept chipping away.
“The lads have worked wonders and the set-up of the bike is a lot better than I thought it would be, even though I have only done one race on it. I’m over the moon.”
Before Harrison’s breakthrough, 2017 Senior TT winner Dunlop had dominated the popular Manx meeting by winning all three of the earlier superbike races on his Bennetts Suzuki superbike and set a new outright lap record. In the feature race the Ballymoney man blazed into the lead from the start and it looked like it would be business as usual for him until Harrison and Kneen upped their pace.
Harrison added: “Michael got a really good start and I thought: ‘I need to get stuck in now and not let him break me’.
“I like to feel the road beneath the bike before I push hard and then I started to reel him back in and got past. Dan got past too and we swapped and changed a few times on various laps but I just knew I had to keep braking as late as I could and keep my head down.”
Harrison, who was running a stock motor in his Silicone Kawasaki after yet more problems with his superbike engine at the start of the week, saw Kneen slip ahead after he made a mistake at Castletown corner.
“My boot got caught on my rearset and I ran wide,” Harrison explained.
Kneen, who had finished runnerup to Dunlop in the three previous superbike encounters on his superstock spec DTR BMW S1000RR, continued to swap the lead with Harrison over the closing laps as Dunlop followed in their wheel tracks. The on-form Manxman had his own plan for the final corner on the last lap.
“I had planned to outbrake Dean at Castletown but he ran in really deep,” Kneen explained.
“I tried to get the drive to go past on the run to the line but he came across the road and I had to back off.”
Harrison took the chequered flag by just 0.13 seconds from Kneen with Dunlop 0.4 seconds further back.
All three men broke Dunlop’s new outright lap record set earlier in the day on the final circuit, with the Irishman enjoying the consolation of establishing a new mark of 115.707mph, over 1mph faster than Harrison’s 2014 speed.
A dejected Dunlop explained: “It was my own fault really because I told Steve (Hicken, team boss) to change the rear suspension setting and I just lost all
‘I knew I had to keep braking as late as possible and keep my head down’ DEAN HARRISON
the grip. There is definitely a 116mph lap possible around here, maybe even a 117. I knew there were two or three seconds to gain but I just lost all my drive round the back and couldn’t pull it all back in again because my rear just started to spin.”
Although he now has 20 Southern wins on his CV, the 28-year-old was disappointed not to have equalled the record of four Southern Solo championship race wins held by his uncle Joey and Guy Martin (who opted to sit out this year’s event, see p69).
Dunlop added: “I would have been ok if we had run with the earlier set-up with just a couple of clicks change but we went with a big change because we just don’t know anything about this bike at the minute.
“The boys are riding hard, so to make a big jump like that can go for you or go against you, but you have to be on the money.”
Dean Harrison celebrates his victory in the Southern 100 feature race