John McGuinness won his 18th TT today when he took victory in the Dainese Superbike race. The Honda TT Legends rider overcame an early challenge from Cameron Donald and, in his usual manner, once in front he was able to gradually pull away. Aided by two incredibly slick pit stops, a lead of six seconds at half race distance became 18 seconds and he was able to ease off slightly on the final lap to take the chequered flag by 14 seconds. Donald put in his first 130mph+ laps to take a good second and it was Bruce Anstey who came home third after Guy Martin faded in the second half of the race with rear tyre problems.
“This feels pretty special,” said McGuinness, immediately after the race. “I’ve won a few around here in the past and, to be honest, I never know what to say and going off at number one again, it was just me, the track and the stopwatch. There were a lot of leaves on the track first thing and I was a bit tentative on the first lap, just feeling my way into the race. After that though, conditions were good and I felt strong everywhere, so I just read my boards once I’d got the lead.”
“Cameron was really on it to begin with it so, after two fantastic pit stops, I had a real good go on laps three and five, hitting all my apexes and concentrating really hard. There was a big crowd out there and I got a bit emotional when I went through the Creg on the last lap as it reminded me of how I used to wave at Joey all those years ago!”
The morning started in cool, cloudy conditions and a 15-minute delay was required before the race could get underway at 11.15am and when it did, it was clear that there wasn’t going to be much between the leading trio at the end of the first lap and, sure enough, with all three posting 130mph+ laps, only 0.98s split Donald, McGuinness and Martin, the Australian leading by just 0.2s. Johnson, Anstey and Hillier completed the top six but Michael Rutter was out with gearbox trouble. McGuinness’ team-mate Simon Andrews was also out having crashed at the Graham Memorial suffering a number of fractures.
McGuinness was slowly getting into his stride and, with the fastest lap of the race, 130.382mph, McGuinness had regained the lead on the second lap and as he came into the pits for his first stop, the lead was 2.16s. Martin was a further three seconds back and after a superb pit stop, McGuinness’ lead shot up to 6 seconds. Bruce Anstey had regained fourth from Johnson and it was now William Dunlop who was holding onto sixth.
Donald wasn’t going to roll over though and reduced the gap back to 3.8s at Glen Helen but throughout the third lap, McGuinness maintained his lead over Donald. Martin was dropping back though and at the end of the third lap, McGuinness led Donald by a now ominous looking 6.2s, Martin’s challenge seemingly over as he was now 21 seconds behind Donald.
Anstey, Johnson and Dunlop completed the top six with Hillier, Ian Hutchinson, a flying Dean Harrison and Michael Dunlop completing the top ten. Farquhar called it a day as three of the newcomers – Jimmy Storrar, Karl Harris and Jamie Hamilton all posted their first ever 120mph laps.
By two thirds race distance, McGuinness was back in familiar territory, controlling affairs from the front, and with his lead extending at each timing point, he came into the pits at the end of lap ten seconds clear. With yet another superb pit stop, the lead was increased further still to 13 seconds but Martin was now in danger of losing third to Anstey. A rear spindle problem meant the Tyco Suzuki team couldn’t change the rear tyre and so he had to ride four laps on the same tyre. Stewart was again penalised 30s and that dropped him down the order to 12th.
There were no such problems for McGuinness though and with a lead of almost 17 seconds at Ramsey on the final lap, he was able to ride to his signals and come for his 18th TT win, 14.86s clear of Donald, the same 1-2 as twelve months ago. Anstey took over third on the fifth lap to make it a Honda 1-2-3 as Martin ended up 20s behind in fourth. Johnson and Dunlop were secure in fifth and sixth to make it 5 Hondas in the top 6.
“It was a shame I couldn’t push John to the end,” said Donald, “but I’m very proud to have finished second. It was close early on but once he’d got a bit of a buffer on me, I rode smart and safe and I’m very happy with how the bike went. I’ve learnt plenty and ridden a lot this season and it’s paying off. The crew did a great job in the pits and, after a really enjoyable practice week, it’s great to get a podium.”
Hillier held onto seventh with the returning Ian Hutchinson in eighth but, without doubt, one of the rides of the race was by Dean Harrison. In just his second TT, the 23-year lapped at over 126mph to take a brilliant ninth, with Michael Dunlop completing the top ten on his Kawasaki Superstock machine.