After just three night's of practice, the 2016 Isle of Man TT is already shaping up to be one of the closest in history.
Last night Ian Hutchinson broke the 130mph barrier for the first time this year and he wouldn’t have been the only one had Michael Dunlop not broken down in the early stages of the session. The Ballymoney man missed out on topping Monday’s practice by a whisper with a lap of 129.670mph from a standing start.
It’s not just the two BMW men on a charge though, 23x TT winner John McGuinness heads into this year’s TT buoyed by the success of his incredible Senior victory last year. He’s already hot on the tails of the BMW’s and is known not to show his full hand until racing gets underway.
Then we’ve got Bruce Anstey, the story of the fortnight so far, riding a specially prepared RC213V-S MotoGP replica for the Padgetts team. Last night he recorded an average speed of 128mph, but he had been a couple of seconds up on session leader John McGuinness three quarters of the way around the lap so there are murmurs the New Zealander could be sandbagging, reluctant to show the RCV’s true potential at this stage.
It’s not set in stone that Bruce will race the RCV; he’s to make a decision before Saturday’s Superbike race. It’s a tough one; the Padgetts ‘blade took him to victory in the Superbike race last year, snatching the race record in the process and at this year’s North West he obliterated the speed record with a mind-blowing 209.8mph through the speed trap. It ain’t slow, whereas the RCV is an unproven entity around the TT course and only fired up for the first time on Monday. The Fireblade has done tens of thousands of miles around the TT course; the RCV just over 200.
Peter Hickman has continued to show promise around the mountain course. Tackling the circuit for the first time on a full-fat Superbike, the BSB race-winner notched up a lap of 129.550mph on the GBmoto Kawasaki to show he plans to be well in the mix this year.
Dean Harrison was another rider to post a 129mph lap on the Silicone Engineering Kawasaki. It’s been a strong start to the TT for the Bradford rider who has shown session-topping form in the Supersport and Superstock classes.
While the usual competitors may be leading the way, it’s worth remembering that we’ve only had three days of practice. It can take a while for riders to dial themselves in around here and with the inherent dangers, unless both they and their bike are feeling right they simply won’t push and who could blame them? Expect big steps forward for the likes of Hillier, Cummins and Johnston in the next few days.