Bruce Anstey laid down his marker tonight for tomorrow’s six-lap Dainese Superbike TT with a 131.431mph on the Padgetts Honda – the first 131mph lap of the 2011 TT and it could have been even faster had it not been for the sidecars starting their first lap of practice.
When that happens the solo riders can’t complete a full lap and are pulled off into the top end of the paddock, having tripped a different timing loop. The missing final few yards of the lap, that should have been covered, are added as a ‘conservative time assessment’ to the short lap time. So with that in mind, Anstey could actually have been on course to break John McGuinness outright lap record of 131.578mph.
Anstey had been nowhere on the opening lap – 117mph after some set-up changes that went the wrong direction!
But he was all smiles after practice had finished, but as usual, had little to say. “It was a good run, a nice clear run,” he said. "I can’t fault the Honda. Clive Padgett has done an excellent job."
A man of few words who lets his on track action do the talking.
There’s no complacency in the Padgetts camp either. They’ve too much experience to get carried away with being fast in practice and know that it’s tomorrow’s six-lap race that counts and the 37.73 mile TT Mountain course can throw up innumerable challenges before any celebrations can be enjoyed.
Friday is normally reserved for ‘conservative laps’ checking over bikes in readiness for Saturday race day but tonight was what Thursday should have been – a flurry of fast laps – with most riders really needed every lap possible to dial bikes and themselves in.
Guy Martin, John McGuinness and Gary Johnson opened the action with 128mph standing start laps but on the second flying lap, Michael Dunlop tripped the clocks at 130.02, then came Guy Martin and 130.07 and McGuinness did 130.61 while Johnson stopped at the end of the lap to take out his 600.
Getting two full laps was a relief for Dunlop who managed his first flying lap on the Street Sweep PBM Kawasaki superbike after two blow-ups.
Everything then calmed down with riders trying to get in laps on supersport and superstock bikes but right at the end of the session, everyone stood gawping at the pit lane monitor when Anstey did his 131mph lap.
It all bodes well for tomorrow’s big race since it’s all so close at the moment. If anything, McGuinness remains the favourite because history shows he’s able to pull something special out of the bag on race day.
But Anstey just looks in such high spirits, all the snipes about whether he gets out of bed the right side on race day or not have been long forgotten and everyone is now tipping him as the man most likely to – and McGuinness is only too well aware of that.
Martin’s also on it and has changed so little on his Relentless by TAS Suzuki it’s laughable – considering how finicky the GSX-R100 is reputed to have been in the past couple of seasons.
Dunlop is well short of set-up time on his Kawasaki but he’s the sort of guy who can get the best from something that’s not ‘dead-on’ so he can’t be ruled out – but there has to be a nagging fear that any shortcomings in bike set-up might hurt him over six laps.
Donald might not have done anything outstanding on the Wilson Craig Honda superbike tonight but the potential is there and the other one to consider is Gary Johnson who has been on the pace all week and didn’t do a flying lap tonight because he needed to check out his 600.
Anstey also topped the Superstock times with a lap of 126.85 – his only lap on the bike tonight but that didn’t quite match his best lap on Wednesday of 127.69mph.
Donald might have only managed a 125mph lap on his superbike tonight but did a 127.2mph on his superstocker.
Team-mate William Dunlop posted an impressive third quickest time with a lap of 126.734mph and may race the stocker in tomorrow’s superbike race.
Michael Dunlop again topped the Supersport class on his Street Sweep Yamaha R6 with a lap of 125.26, marginally slower than his best time of 125.46 set on Tuesday.
McGuinness was second quickest at 123.51 and Johnson third at 123.087.