112.36mph. By Senior TT standards that’s not fast. But it was a landmark for Stuart Garner’s Norton team as Ian Mackman completed the all-new V4’s first lap of the 37.73 Mountain course.
I know there are plenty of naysayers populating the various web forums and loving every opportunity to knock Garner’s Norton business, but as racing efforts go, it doesn’t get any more challenging than leaping in at the deep end with a TT programme.
We all admire the engineering excellence of the Japanese, how street bikes (read superstockers) can lap the course almost as fast as fully-tuned superbikes. What we’ve never seen is the painstaking effort Japan puts into developing new motorcycles – sometimes years before we see the finished article in the flesh.
Norton are developing their brand new bike in a very public way on the world’s most demanding race track - and Mackman’s lap tonight was the very first step of a long-term programme that Garner has in mind to use racing as a means to promote brand awareness.
Mackman admitted he wasn’t pushing. This was very much a shakedown lap to check it over, but he seemed really happy with the handling and power delivery. Garner looked satisfied rather than relieved with the job done.
As a first lap, with a brand new bike that’s done very little track time on short circuits by way of development, 112.36mph seems a good starting point.
It looked to me that the fans willing to take the air, enjoy the sunshine and actually witness the bike in action first-hand, agreed and were 100% supportive of the effort. There were certainly plenty of cameras pointed in the direction of the silver beast today. And just how good does that that un-silenced V4 motor sound?
For me though the story of TT2012 so far is this battle of wits between Cameron Donald and John McGuinness. I’m loving it and I’m sure you all must be too. Cam does 125.76 on his out lap. John does 127.38. Cam does 129.02 on his next lap. John does 129.41.
They were ‘short’ second laps, with all the riders being pulled off the track at the top of the pits to allow the Lightweight and Supersport bikes out.
The shortest of short laps tonight was James Hillier who’s superbike lost its radiator cap at Braddan. He borrowed a CG125 Honda off a spectator and scooted back to the paddock then went out on his stocker instead!
Talking of stockers, Bruce Anstey laid down his marker with a sizzling 126.07 standing start lap on his Padgetts Honda – nearly seven seconds faster than next man William Dunlop.
The Wilson Craig rider though topped the Supersport session with a 124.77 lap to narrowly edge brother Michael (124.65) who was a lot happier on the R6 that Gary Ryan has helped him build after desperate times on the GSX-R600 at the North West and first day of practice here. Michael Dunlop also clocked two 126mph laps on his superbike.
It was good to see Conor Cummins out on the Tyco TAS Suzuki tonight. He’s carrying that hand injury sustained at the NW200, remember, and didn’t ride last night to give the swelling a bit longer to subside.
But he did a couple of laps on the superbike and looked relieved to get them under his belt.
I’ve got to say the Lightweight Supertwins look and sound great. 37 riders practiced so there’s a healthy line-up too. Predictably, Ryan Farquhar was quickest at 115.39 but said afterwards that he’s always thought there’s a 117mph potential lap in the Kawasaki.
James Hillier and Michael Rutter both clocked 113mph laps, and Donald wasn’t far off with a 112.8. With a little more time those guys might actually give Ryan something to think about come race day.
Wednesday’s forecast is for the scorching sun to take a bit of a time out and we might not have to worry about slapping on the lotion. But hey, it’s the Isle of Man.
Do they ever get three successive days of perfect TT weather here?