Ian Hutchinson fended of a determined bid by Michael Dunlop in today’s thrilling four-lap Supersport race and by doing so equalled Phillip McCallen’s four-in-a-week feat of 1996.
The difference this time is that Hutchinson is the first man to win four successive races in a week and still the potential to add to his win tally with tomorrow’s Senior.
Hutchinson immediately jumped into the lead and his Padgetts Honda went through Glen Helen fourth tenths of a second up on Guy Martin, who in turn was just eight tenths up on Dunlop. At the end of the first lap, Hutchinson held a 5.39s lead over Dunlop on the Street Sweep Yamaha. Guy Martin was third by almost six seconds off the frontrunners with Keith Amor fourth on the Kojak Honda, three seconds further back. Bruce Anstey was fifth on the Relentless Suzuki from John McGuinness, Conor Cummins, William Dunlop, Ryan Farquhar and Dan Kneen, the sensation of the first supersport race earlier in the week.
Dunlop stared to eat into Hutchinson’s lead on the second lap. It was down to 4.11s at Gelen Helen, 2.07s at Ballaugh and 1.04s at Ramsey but on the run over the mountain the Padgetts Honda rider was stronger and opened the gap to 5.77s as everyone dived into the pits for the routine second lap refuelling stop. Hutchinson was eight seconds ahead thanks to a super-efficient pit stop by the Padgetts crew, Dunlop hindered on his exit by other bikes in the pit lane.
But Dunlop wasn’t about to give in. His determined run to Glen Helen saw the lead cut to 6.45s and it was down to 1.81 at Ramsey. Again it was the mountain where Hutchinson clawed back a lead and when he set off on the final lap, he held a meagre 3.31s advantage - with Dunlop about to mount his final attack along the run to Glen Helen.
The lead came down to 1.9s at Glen Helen, but Dunlop led at Ballaugh by 1.09s and the feeling was, if he could only build a couple of more second s on the bumpy run to Ramsey, he might be able to hold Hutchinson off over the Mountain and nail his second TT victory. But it was only 1.82s in Dunlop’s favour at Ramsey and on the all –important Mountain, Hutchinson had been consistently fast all through the TT. At Bungalow Hutchinson was back in the lead by 0.4s but he maintained the lead to the flag to win by 1.44s.
While he posted a new lap record of 127.611mph, he only held it for a split second. When Dunlop crossed the line, he stopped the clocks at an amazing 127.836mph.
But it wasn’t enough and the race went to Hutchinson, from Dunlop, with Amor ousting Martin to take third. McGuiness finished fifth from Cummins, William Dunlop, Anstey, Farquhar, and Gary Johnson.
The race was marred by the death of 39-year old New Zealander Paul Dobbs of Onewhero, killed in an incident at Ballagary. Dobbs was an experienced TT competitor. He made his TT debut in 1999 and finished sixth in the Lightweight 400 TT in 2000. He was married with two children.