We got back to hotel last night after practice had been curtailed by two incidents: a crash at Ballaugh that left oil on the course, and a huge oil spillage at the top of Barregarow.
There had been too little time to get a road cleaner out to the course, clean up the mess and then allow the superbikes on track so the fans were denied one last guide to the formbook for today’s six lap Superbike TT.
No matter who I talked to Friday night in the paddock the conversation inevitably swung to ‘who’s your money for the Superbike race?’
For what it’s worth, the smart money has to be on John McGuinness but Cameron Donald has been on it all week and had it not been for his Wilson Craig Honda holing a rad at Windy Corner on Wednesday, he could well have clocked a lap time well into the 130s as his sector time splits were up on McGuinness up to that point. And they big thing is that with Cam you know he can sustain that pace all race.
So, best lap times: McGuinness 130.79. Donald 129.05.
No one should discount Bruce Anstey who had pulled a 129.56 out of the hat on Wednesday in his usual inimitable style on the Padgetts Honda. Could this be the year he finally chalks up his first six-lap TT victory?
Guy Martin did 128.86 and didn’t seem to bothered about anyone else when I spoke to him Friday night – but that’s his way. Coming into the race Guy talked about needing more concentration and focus over race distance. We’ll find out in a few hours time.
Michael Rutter has been on top form all week and his fifth quickest time of 128.072 on the Bathams Kawasaki. Can he lap at that speed consistently? I reckon he could because he’s got such an economical, effortless riding style. But can he throw a couple of 130s that will be needed for a race-winning time.
Then there’s James Hillier. 127.81mph. He’s been one to watch all week and there’s definitely more to come. Race winning potential? Maybe not quite but certainly a podium prospect.
We’ve not seen the best from Michael Dunlop yet. It’s taken him a while to get his Honda sorted this week and has ‘only’ done 127.54, but his race face is well worth a lot more so he shouldn’t be written off.
The big surprise is Gary Johnson who’s not really lived up to the pre-event hype. Like Dunlop, he’s taken time to get up to speed and get the Padgetts Honda sorted to suit him.
Others in the mix: Dan Stewart 127.45 on the Wilcox Honda, Simon Andrews so impressive coming back from injury with a 127.36, Ian Hutchinson 126.67 with more to come.
You can make all the prediction you like but, as history has shown, the legendary 37.73 mile Mountain course is not only the most demanding race circuit in the world, it also offer the most unpredictable racing. You can have the most comprehensive form guide in the world but it can get turned on its head in a second. A tiny stone in a radiator. A botched pit stop. Catching a backmarker in the wrong place. And the omnipresent threat of mechanical failure.
So who’s going to win? We’ll only know the answer after six laps of furious racing. But at 8.53, the early sunny start has suddenly clouded over and the air temperature has dropped dramatically. That’s the Isle of Man weather. As unpredictable as the racing.