IoM TT 2019: race reports

It’s been an emotional, challenging TT so far in 2019, with heroic laps and fantastic riding punctuated by cancellations due to adverse weather and sheer, abject tragedy along the way.

In this article you can read race reports from the Superbike, Supersport and Sidecar races. Read on or hit the buttons below to jump to a certain section…

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2019 TT Superbike race – Hickman takes top spot in red-flagged race

Peter Hickman wins the Superbike race at the Isle of Man TT

Peter Hickman took first place in a shortened 2019 Superbike race at the TT on Monday.

In a race postponed to Monday from Saturday and shortened to four laps because of the bad weather during TT 2019’s opening week, Hickman claimed victory after he had renewed his 2018 Senior TT rivalry with Dean Harrison on the Silicone Kawasaki.

On the first dry roads the riders had seen for almost a week, fast-starting Harrison led from the drop of the Manx flag. The Bradford man built a four second lead on his Silicone Kawasaki ZX-10RR before Peter Hickman eventually closed him down and moved into the lead as they pitted at the end of the second circuit.

As the leaders went through Glen Helen on the third lap with Hickey leading by just 0.6 seconds, the red flags came out after Daley Mathison was involved in a fatal crash on his Wepol/ BMW at Snugborough. The race was declared a result after two laps.

“Like my usual self it took me a good half a lap to get going,” explained Hickman. “I was just feeling it and understanding it. I felt like I was strong to Glen Helen on the first lap. I got my first board at Sulby and it said P2 – plus 1, For me that was a really good start!”

Hickman admitted he was worried as Harrison continued to open the gap before a charge over the mountain on the second lap moved him into a slender lead.

“Dean kept pulling away and I got to a point where I thought ‘I’m going about as fast as I can’,” he said. “I was fast over the mountain last year and its appears that we are the same again this year. When I came in to the pits they said I was leading but there was nothing in it. It’s never great to finish a race like that though, a shortened race.”

Hickman’s second lap speed of 132.947mph was 2.9 seconds faster than Harrison’s best. But he hadn’t managed to sort a series of problems on his 2019 spec BMW S1000RR after completing just two full laps during the weather-hit practice week – so he elected to ride a ‘hybrid superbike/stocker’ in Monday’s race.

That hybrid BMW S1000RR explained…

“I also missed last Sunday as I was at Donington Park BSB so I was a few laps down on some of the boys,” said Hickman. “When we realised we weren’t going to get any more practice the boys made a bit of a hybrid and I rode my Superstock bike with some superbike parts thrown on it. We used the Öhlins front forks and a superbike rear-end. The engine in that bike has never been out of the chassis since it came to us as a road bike!”

Hickman declared he would be sticking with this ‘hybrid’ version of the S1000RR for the Senior TT.

Dean Harrison couldn’t hide his disappointment after losing yet another TT to Peter Hickman in Monday’s Superbike race.

The Silicone Kawasaki rider had been the fastest man throughout practice week as he tried to assert his authority on the 37.73-mile TT course. But as in last year’s epic Senior race, it was the mountain section that proved his undoing in Monday’s encounter.

“I’ve done some homework with the Mountain over the winter,” said Harrison, “But I was struggling a bit with the wind up there and it was buffeting me around a bit into the turns. I’m a bit of a weasel compared to Conor Cummins and Peter Hickman!”

Harrison set off at number two, ten seconds behind Cummins and made his usual rapid start before hitting a problem on his ZX-10RR.

“I had a really good first lap but on the second lap it felt like there was a problem with the shifter or something as the bike was surging a bit and I let Conor go ahead as I didn’t want the bike to cut out with him so close behind,” he explained. “I mentioned it to the boys at the pit stop and it was fine again.”

Harrison managed to close the 1.782 second gap Hickman had gained at the pit stop to just 0.6 sec at Glen Helen before the red flags came out.

Manxman Conor Cummins’ third place finish on the Milenco Padgett’s Honda, 9.345-seconds behind race winner Peter Hickman in the Superbike race, followed his second place in last year’s Superbike race and a third in the Senior. It was also Cummins’ ninth TT podium finish without a victory.

“I just tried to be consistent and pick up where I left off last year with my lines and corner speed,” the Ramsey man explained. “My first board said P4, so I just dug in and am really happy to be third.”

Cummins raced across the mountain with Harrison after the Kawasaki rider caught him at Ramsey on the second lap. “Being bigger helped me in certain places,” he said. “There were a few corners on the mountain where Dean seemed to struggle a bit.

“It looked like he got blown about a bit. I got a good run through Black Hut and passed him because I knew we were coming up to the pit stop.”

Peter Hickman on his Smiths Racing BMW


2019 Supersport TT race – Johnston wins after lap 2

Lee Johnston wins 2019 IoM TT Supersport race

Lee Johnston enjoyed an emotional – and slightly confusing – first TT win in a shortened Supersport race on Monday evening.

Johnston was leading by just seconds as the race reached the end of the second lap when the organisers put out the red flags after rain began to fall in the Kirkmichael area. There had been no warning before the riders approached the Glencrutchery road and some, like Dean Harrison, entered Gasoline alley instead of crossing the finish line. Race winner Johnston, meanwhile, admitted he wasn’t sure he had won.

“There was just a chequered flag and a red light and I wasn’t sure whether I should pit or go over the line,” smiled Johnston. “I had to stop and ask someone if I had won but he was so excited he couldn’t tell me!”

Johnston was the winner of a race in which less than five seconds covered the first three riders, with James Hillier (Quattro Plant Kawasaki) and Peter Hickman (Trooper Beer Triumph) second and third.

“I was upset the race had been cut short because I was so in the groove,” said Johnston after holding the lead from the Bungalow on the opening lap.

For the Northern Ireland man, his maiden Mountain course win was a dream come true.

“This is the biggest moment of my racing career,” beamed Johnston, who finished third in the 2015 Superstock race.

“I have always joked that you aren’t a real road racer if you don’t win a TT, but if I never win anything else in my career this will be enough. Just to be a little name on that famous trophy is very special.”

Johnston’s TT victory comes at the end of a good run of form for the 30-year-old. He has enjoyed top four finishes in the early rounds of the British Supersport championship and beat 600cc specialist Alastair Seeley at the North West 200 last month.

“It is seven years since I raced in the British championship but you need to be riding to be sharp,” explained Johnston.

“The British series is probably the best level outside the world championships and it has made me sharper especially after the last few years when I haven’t been at my best mentally and physically.”

Johnston puts a lot of his recent run of good form down to the Ashcourt Racing team he has built after breaking with Honda Racing at the end of last year.

“The factory set up didn’t suit me,” he said. “When you are setting off down Bray Hill you have to have people you trust around you. The people I have with me are there because they want to be and when you are getting the bikes built yourself, sorting the trucks and the staff and everything else it means even more when you win.”

Lee Johnston on his bike winning the 2019 IoM TT Supersport race

2019 TT Sidecar race

Ben and Tom Birchall win Sidecar TT race at 2019 IoM

Ben and Tom Birchall delivered a record-breaking opening Sidecar TT on Monday. After just three laps of practice with a new LCR outfit, the Mansfield pair continued their domination of three-wheeler racing on the Mountain course by claiming their sixth victory in a row ahead of John Holden and Lee Cain (Silicone Engineering/Barnes Racing Honda) and Alan Founds and Jake Lowther (Team Founds Racing LCR Yamaha).

The brothers were also on course to break the 120mph barrier on the second lap before being slowed by waved yellows at Waterworks.

“It’s been a fraught practice week for everyone and we’ve had engines out, gearboxes out, but to win again is mega,” said Ben afterwards.

“I got my head down on the first lap and once I built up a gap I was able to control the race. I’m not saying we would have done a 120mph lap but it was about winning the race rather than the lap record so I calmed down.”

Their second lap speed of 119.129mph was just one second outside their outright lap record and ensured a new race record that was 1.035s quicker than their 2018 time.

Tom became the most successful sidecar passenger in TT history as the duo’s ninth TT win saw him better the eight wins of Dan Sayle and Rick Long.

The Birchalls remain a long way behind Dave Molyneux’s 17 wins, but the local favourite and passenger Harry Payne joined former TT winner and world champ Tim Reeves and Mark Wilkes as retirees on the opening lap.

John Holden became the oldest TT winner in history with his 2016 Sidecar victory and the 61-year-old was showing no signs of slowing down as he finished 48 seconds behind the Birchalls with passenger Lee Cain.

Ben and Tom Birchall in their 2019 sidecar at the TT

10 great places to watch the Isle of Man TT

First published May 24

You’re sitting on a grass-topped wall at Gorse Lea with a mug of tea in one hand. Quiet chatter ripples along the line of fans stretching back to the barn 80 yards away. A blackbird chirps from a nearby tree while a distant radio mutters half-remembered names: Braddan, Union Mills, Crosby.

The radio burble becomes louder. Really loud. Suddenly a bike smashes the air in front of you. Four feet away, wobbling violently at 165mph, it slams onto its side for a sixth-gear, knee-down right, and then is gone.

OK, the TT makes other sports look like tiddlywinks, but am I watching from the best place? Relax. The best place to watch is: wherever you are. At the TT, the spectating experience is the people you’re with, the drama of the race, the munchies you’ve brought with you.

That said, there are some classic spots. We’ve whittled it down to 10 with the help of veteran TT photographer Dave Collister. And meanwhile, if you’re lucky enough to be at Gorse Lea during one of this year’s Superbike races, you probably are in the best place – not just in the Isle of Man – but in the whole world.

Best places to watch the IoM TT

  1. Conker Trees, Lezayre
  2. Bray Hill
  3. Gorse Lea
  4. Kate’s Cottage
  5. Quarry Bends
  6. The Gooseneck
  7. Railway Hotel, Union Mills
  8. Barregarrow
  9. Ginger Hall
  10. Cronk y Voddy

Conker Trees

James Hillier at Conker Trees

Rightly made famous by North One’s TV coverage: a big lean in fifth (on a Superbike) which is also a wheelie. It’s simply incredible. You’re stuck here for the duration but who cares? Inside is best for action and refreshments/toilets.

How to get there Turn right either before or after the Silly Moos Campsite on the left. There’s good parking in the field below the church.

Bray Hill

Dean Harrison at Bray Hill

If you ride off the ferry mid-race, Bray Hill is the obvious place to watch. Anywhere is worth it, from the 170mph bounce at the top of St Ninian’s (Ballaquayle Road) to the bellypan-crunching bottom (Stoney Road). Or you can even enquire about a place in one of the small grandstands down the hill.

How to get there Up from the ferry terminal, left after the Marina and find Somerset Road.

Gorse Lea

Peter Hickman at Gorse Lea

Home-made cakes, mugs of tea (with proceeds going to the Rob Vine fund), ample parking and wonderful Manx hospitality from the family who own the wall you sit on. You want to see 170mph knee-down in top gear? Then come here. Early.

How to get there There’s an easily-missed right turn off the course at the top of Greeba village. Alternatively, go left at Ballacraine traffic lights, first left again and follow your nose.

Kate’s Cottage

Dave Hewson at Kate's Cottage

You can walk up from the Creg if you’re feeling energetic. It’s a pivotal point on the course where riders begin the descent from the relatively empty Mountain and return to the more heavily populated lowland.

How to get there Leave Douglas travelling north and take the A18 for about three miles.

Quarry Bends

Dave Hewson at Quarry Bends

A superfast right/left/right/left/right which has several viewing options. Try standing by the otter sign for a masterclass in high speed cornering or simply lounge around in the grass – but bring your own food and drink as you’ll be stuck there until the roads open again.

How to get there Turn off the course at Curragh’s Wildlife Park, a mile after the famous Ballaugh bridge.

The Gooseneck

Conor Cummins and John McGuinness at The Gooseneck

One of the TT’s classic corners, dripping with atmosphere. A short walk to the preceding left-hander brings the bikes almost into licking distance. Or you can walk up the hill and be entirely alone as you hike to Guthrie’s.

How to get there Left immediately after the Gooseneck, above Ramsey. Parking is tricky.

Railway Hotel, Union Mills

Peter Hickman at the Railway Hotel

The garden of the hotel is a perfect spot to spend an afternoon: food, beer and benches, with the option to nip to Douglas (20 minutes) during a race via the adjoining lane.

How to get there Just turn left at the pub.

Barregarrow (Oh Lordy!)

Lee Johnston at Barregarrow

If the Barregarrow wheelies are scary the 140mph suspension-crushing bottom is utterly terrifying.

How to get there Turn off at Barregarrow crossroads and find a spot.

Ginger Hall

The view from inside Ginger Hall

The ideal place for a day-long beer session to a backdrop of bike racing. Or stay sober, watch the bikes tear up from Sulby Bridge and bank left on one race, then take the back road to Sulby crossroads or up the Tholt-e-Will Road to the Bungalow for the next.

How to get there Turn off after the Sulby Straight and park in Yn Claddach.

Cronk y Voddy

Michael Rutter at Cronk y Voddy

A flat-in-top straight where the front wheel skips from crest to crest while you sit on the bank in the sunshine. There’s good parking in the field on the outside of the course. Find a high vantage point to get the full effect, and to spare your neck muscles as you try to track the bikes passing at 180mph.

How to get there Turn left off the course in Cronk y Voddy village. After the racing, nip to Peel for an ice cream while the roads re-open.

TV schedule announced for 2019 Isle of Man TT

Dean Harrison in action at the 2018 TT

For those not fortunate enough to be attending the 2019 Isle of Man TT races, ITV 4 will once again be broadcasting highlights coverage of the entire fortnight, as well as a number of special programs exploring previous races, the riders themselves and certain teams.

Hosted by Matt Roberts and joined by former riders and TT winners Steve Plater and Cameron Donald, additional race commentary will also be provided by Dave Moore.

Coverage of the event will start on Monday, May 27 at 9pm with an in-depth look at the final lap of the 2018 Senior TT, which saw the 135mph average speed barrier broken for the first time. 

Eventually finishing the race with an average speed of 135.452mph, Peter Hickman took the win from Dean Harrison by just two seconds.

The program titled: ‘One Three Five – Breaking The Barrier’ features accounts from both riders, who discuss at length how the record for the fastest-ever road race was broken.

The following day features: ‘The Greatest Race – Hislop vs Fogarty’, which tells the story of the 1992 Senior TT, including interviews with Foggy and others involved in the event.

The race is widely regarded as the best TT race in history, with Hislop taking the victory on his rotary Norton. Fogarty took the lap record aboard his Yamaha OW01, which took seven years to beat.

1992 Senior TT podium

Wednesday, 29 May provides viewers with ‘TAS TT A Winning Formula’ which looks at TAS Racing’s ride from low-level Irish road racing, to 18 TT victories from a roster of top-level road racers. Commentary is provided by father and son Hector and Philip Neill, who discuss running the team both on the roads and in the British championships.

Thursday’s listing promises something a little different, with the TV team heading to Texas to speak with Peter Hickman, as well as catching up with last year’s winners Dean Harrison, Michael Dunlop and Michael Rutter.

What’s more, Steve Plater goes Kayaking off the Isle of Man coast with Dean Harrison and Davey Todd, and the Birchall brothers go mountain biking. Other interesting content also includes visits to major team bases, including Honda Racing and Norton.

On Friday, May 31 the action kicks off with a qualifying highlights show, detailing all of the week’s practice action ahead of the first race on the Saturday.

This then leads into the first of the racing broadcasts, with highlights shown every night at 9pm from Saturday, June 1 until Saturday, June 8.

Remember, alongside detailed television coverage, you can also keep an eye on our own online sports coverage and enjoy a 40-page TT supplement in this Wednesday’s issue.

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