Sensational. That’s the only way to describe tonight’s TT practice session.
Guy Martin flashes down the Glencrutchery Road on his Hydrex Bike Animal Honda to clock a 127.77mph lap – the quickest of practice week so far.
Then Cameron Donald and John McGuinness cross the line virtually together. 128.61mph for the Relentless Suzuki rider, his fastest-ever Isle of Man TT lap after a year out through injury. McGuinness does 128.61, even faster.
Later in the session Bruce Anstey clocks 127.82 on the Relentless Suzuki to go third, pushing Martin back to fourth. Ian Hutchinson improves on his hot Thursday night session that came after a dramatic set-up change, and posts 126.95mph on the AIM Yamaha.
Ryan Farquhar hasn’t improved on his 126.65mph lap from Thursday set on his superstock ZX-10 but he’s still sixth overall. Adrian Archibald does 126.33mph on his Suzuki, Gary Johnson’s best is 125.61 on the 2005 Uel Duncan Blade.
The paddock area is buzzing with speculation of who has the best chance going into tomorrow’s first superbike race. No one really expects anything but a McGuinness / Martin scrap but in reality, as Clive Padgett said, six laps is one hell of a long race and anything can happen.
Of course the smart money is on McGuinness. If he can do one of his awesome fast runs on the first split it’s hard to imagine anyone matching him but Martin was stronger on some sections of the course last year so it’s going to be close.
But McGuinness has so much experience of the course, he can almost turn it on at will. From what people are saying who’ve watched him out on the course, and riders who have seen him on track, Martin has smoothed out this year so much and wants it so bad this could, as he says every Isle of Man TT, be his year. But, well, would you bet against McGuinness? It’s so tantalisingly close to call – probably the most exciting prospects for a superbike race we’ve had at the Isle of Man TT for years.
You can’t write off Hutchinson either, or Donald, or Anstey. Hutchy’s week turned around on Thursday night, but it’s just as well, he was having a right mare up to then. He’s suddenly brimming with confidence and once the flag drops he could just match the pace of the two favourites.
After every session Donald – another riders who has smoothed out his riding style dramatically - has said he needs laps to get into the groove but he really found his form tonight, thanks to Hutchinson and McGuinness.
Donald had the AIM Yamaha in his sights on the road but as he caught him, McGuinness came by and the Suzuki rider latched on to the Padgetts Honda. Donald acknowledged the tow, but also said he felt good on his first lap and was hoping for a 127mph flying second lap.
Anstey? Well Bruce is peaking with his superbike. After last year’s handling horrors, this year’s Relentless Suzuki with its Showas, is on rails and the Kiwi has been sensational. He’s never had much luck in the superbike class on the Island but you can’t count him out. If anything, you’d have to say he’ll be taking the race to McGuinness and Martin.
Archibald looks back to his best, now h’s running his own team, albeit with TAS-built kit, and he might have gone even quicker had his gear linkage not come adrift on his second lap. Gary Johnson was flying too and reckoned his 125.61 lap could have been even better had he not been held up in traffic several times on the Uel Duncan Honda. Remember, it was his Isle of Man TT debut last year.
Steve Plater also had an impressive Isle of Man TT debut in 2007 but he’s struggling with big instability problems with his AIM Yamaha. His best lap so far is around 120mph and he even threw in some of team-mate Hutchinson’s settings today to try and find a direction, without any positive results.
Tomorrow is also the first Sidecar race of this year’s Isle of Man TT and Nick Crowe and Mark Cox posted the fastest time of practice week today with a 115.54mph lap. Dave Molyneux and Dan Sayle are second fastest overall thanks to their 115.06mph lap set on Thursday. World Sidecar champions Tim Reeves and Pat Farrance set seventh quickest time with a 110.36mph lap in Reeves’ first Isle of Man TT.
All the action kicks off at midday on Saturday, but for now, I’m off to revel in the fantastic night I’ve just witnessed.