Dunlop sets the benchmark in all classes
Michael Dunlop made his presence felt in the first qualifying session of the Isle of Man TT 2023 by dominating all four solo classes. That included an unofficial lap record in the Supertwin class of 122.907 mph (197.799 km/h), which was even faster than his 2018 best of 122.750 mph (197.558 km/h).
In the Superbike race on his Hawk Racing Honda, Dunlop was also fastest at 131.782 mph (212.080 km/h). In the Superstock class, he posted a speed of 130.426 mph (209.901 km/h) on his MD Racing Honda and in the Supersport class, he clocked 127.019 mph (204.414 km/h) on the MD Racing Yamaha. In the sidecars, the duo of Pete Founds and Jevan Walmsley were fastest at 117.431 mph (189.000 km/h).
Perfect conditions for top performance
The morning practice session and the first qualifying round at 2 p.m. were completed under ideal conditions: blue skies and sunshine. The first to start were the Supersport and Supertwin machines, with Dunlop (MD Racing Paton) and Dean Harrison (BPEby Russell Racing Yamaha) as the first riders to go.
On their heels were Michael Rutter (Bathams Ales Yamaha) and Dominic Herbertson (John M Paterson Ltd/CC Engineering Kawasaki) on their Supertwin machines. James Hillier (BPE by Russell Racing Yamaha) and Paul Jordan (PreZ Racing by Prosper Yamaha), both also in the Supersport class, followed immediately. Jamie Coward (KTS Racing Kawasaki) and Josh Brookes (Dafabet Racing Kawasaki) were also among the first starters in the Supertwin class.
Dunlop unofficially breaks lap record
The big news came from the Supertwin class, with Dunlop unofficially setting a new lap record by reaching a speed of 122.907 mph (197.799 km/h) from a standing start. That was nearly half a minute faster than Coward’s 119.758 mph (192.738 km/h). Brian McCormack (118.971 mph, 191.473 km/h), Herbertson (115.895 mph, 186.515 km/h), Brookes (115.518 mph, 185.897 km/h) and Francesco Curinga, the Junior Manx GP winner (115.183 mph, 185.360 km/h), rounded out the top positions.
Hickman, on his K2 Trooper Triumph, improved his speed to 126.814 mph (204.091 km/h) on the second lap. But Dunlop took the lead with a lap of 127.019 mph (204.414 km/h), which was 1.7 seconds faster than Hickman’s lap.
Superbikes and Superstocks show impressive performance
At 2:45 p.m., the Superbikes and Superstocks began their qualifying rounds. Harrison, on his DAO Racing Kawasaki, immediately made his mark by completing the first lap at over 130 mph (209.215 km/h). Dunlop, however, was not far behind in the Superstock class at 130.426 mph (209.901 km/h).
John McGuinness (127.881 mph, 205.800 km/h) and James Hillier (127.581 mph, 205.318 km/h) also performed well on their Superbikes. Michael Rutter and Josh Brookes were also within striking distance with speeds of 125.888 mph (202.791 km/h) and 125.742 mph (202.509 km/h), respectively.
Peter Hickman entered the Seassion a little later, but made his presence felt right away, finishing second in the Superbike standings with a lap of 130.272 mph (209.654 km/h). Jamie Coward followed closely with 127.975 mph (205.950 km/h).
Dunlop holds its own despite technical problems
Dunlop later switched to his Superbike and posted a lap of 130.658 mph (210.277 km/h), but Harrison and Hickman upped their pace on the second lap to 131.764 mph (212.050 km/h) and 131.254 mph (211.230 km/h), respectively. Still, despite reports of smoke from his Fireblade, Dunlop managed to set the fastest lap of the day at 131.782 mph (212.080 km/h).
Brookes made it second in the Superstock class with a second lap time of 126.404 mph (203.429 km/h), ahead of Phil Crowe at 126.067 mph (202.891 km/h) and Mike Browne at 125.262 mph (201.591 km/h).
Successful first day for newcomers
It was a successful first day on the Mountain Course for rookies Erno Kostamo (115.468 mph, 185.831 km/h), Matthieu Lagrive (111.839 mph, 180.001 km/h), Ryan Cringle (111.658 mph, 179.695 km/h), Jack Petrie (107.696 mph, 173.320 km/h) and Jorge Halliday (107.527 mph, 173.051 km/h).
Sidecar race dominated by Founds/Walmsley
The final session of the day was the sidecar race. Founds and Walmsley set the fastest time on their FHO Racing Honda at 116.286 mph (187.128 km/h), which was six seconds faster than the Birchalls’ lap of 115.689 mph (186.186 km/h). Third was Founds/Lowther at 113.485 mph (182.640 km/h), followed by Molyneux/Sayle at 112.082 mph (180.368 km/h) and Bryan/Hyde at 111.944 mph (180.160 km/h).
In the second round, both Founds/Walmsley and the Birchalls increased their speeds, with the former duo coming out on top with a lap of 117.431 mph (189.000 km/h) compared to 117.153 mph (188.612 km/h) by the Birchalls. Rookie Daryl Gibson, who was a co-driver with Molyneux last year, impressed with a lap of 107.497 mph (172.998 km/h) along with Tom Christie.
Preview of the next qualifying session
The next qualifying session for the Isle of Man TT Races 2023 is scheduled for tomorrow at 18:30. After Michael Dunlop’s strong performance in the opening session, competitors will surely try to match him in the next round. Stay tuned for more exciting action on the famous Mountain Course!
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