TT's greatest races: Senior TT (week 6)

MCN Greatest TT Races

Michael Dunlop riding in 2017
Michael Dunlop riding in 2017
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Now six weeks into MCN’s search for the greatest TT races of the last 25 years and it’s time for the big one - the Senior TT. The blue riband race is the crescendo of the two week event and has historically produced some of the most poignant and spectacular races. Run over six laps it remains arguably the biggest challenge in motorcycle racing and it takes a very special breed of rider to win it. 

Our panel of experts have been assembled to help you decide and are made up of the greatest living TT racer John McGuinness, esteemed team boss Clive Padgett, 11 time winner Phillip McCallen, TT Businness Development Manager Paul Phillips, renowned TT photographer Stephen Davison along with the 2019 Senior TT winner Dean Harrison. 

Then it’s your turn to get involved as you’ll be able to vote on what you think is the greatest Senior TT of the last 25 years with the winning race revealed on 3 June and then featured in detail in MCN’s special TT supplement on 24 June.  

MCN readers who vote will be in the running to win two official Isle of Man TT black T-shirt 

Win this Official TT Backpack!

John McGuinness – 23 time TT winner

2018 – “Hickman versus Harrison and the first 135mph lap”

Joey Dunlop 1998 Lightweight TT

It’s so hard to choose but this one was different mainly because I was watching from the sidelines having raced in every Senior TT since 1998 – I was jealous. It was just such an impressive race and watching it honestly took my breath away. If you stood there and wasn’t be excited by it – then you’re not human. It built and built lap after lap into an epic battle. The condition were perfect for the whole two weeks, the guys were on bikes they’d been riding all year – all the planets aligned and we had the two best riders of the field going at it with the pendulum swinging throughout the whole race in what was a very high pressure situation. But in the end someone had to win and someone had to come second. And the winner takes all the accolades especially with it being the Senior because that race over shadows everything. 

I was glued to the radio and because I’ve been in the hot seat I knew exactly where they were on track and exactly what they were going through. I new how hard it would be and they were out there trying to make everything perfect. I was watching at the bottom of Bray Hill and I had some guy yapping in my ear, oblivious to what we were all witnessing. I ended up having to be pretty rude to him to tell him to shut up because we were there watching one of the greatest TT races you are ever likely to see. I told him to stick his head through the fence and watch them come through on the last lap and boy they were full bore… 

Paul Phillips – TT Business Development Manager

2013 - “McGuinness showed he was a true champion”

Bruce Anstey's 120mph lap on a 250

It was the year that Michael Dunlop moved to Honda and kind of ‘arrived’. He’d won four races up until the Senior and it felt like the baton had been firmly passed from John McGuinness to Michael. It was almost like a foregone conclusion that Michael would win his fifth race and become unstoppable, but it turned out to be a story of a true champion in John McGuinness. He came back swinging in that race and in my opinion John was at his peak that day. He was riding super good, he was using all the road, hitting every apex and he managed the risk perfectly. It was a big and an emotional win for him because I think before that he was definitely doubting himself.  

The race had also been delayed and when John crossed the finish line the whole paddock went crazy. The light was different, the sun was lower and everyone had a certain glow. Normally after a race there is a real schedule that has to be followed with the podium and press conference etc, but it felt so nice we decided to just let John dictate the tempo of things because all the racing was over. He was clearly enjoying the moment, I guess in a way not knowing if it would ever happen again. 

Clive Padgett – Milenco by Padgetts Motorcycles

2010 – “Hutchy making it five in a week”

2019 Michael Dunlop's win in Lightweight TT

It has to be Hutchy in 2010! We won by 42 seconds so it wasn’t a close race, but it was the culmination of an incredible week. No one goes to the TT expecting to win five races and when Hutchy crossed the line it was so emotional for us as a team and for everyone in racing. It felt like a lifetime achievement for everyone in the team and if we never achieved anything else it wouldn’t matter. Before that TT Hutchy had said he had a chance of winning anyone of the races, but not all five.  

You need a bit of luck at the TT and everything fell into place. The feeling when he was leading that race was unreal, but up until the moment he crossed the line all you’re thinking about is what could go wrong. That TT was a once in a lifetime experience. 

Dean Harrison - Senior TT winner

2016 “So much needle between Hutchy and Dunlop”

Phillip McCallen at 1997 Lightweight TT

Hutchy was on the official Tyco BMW bike and Michael was on his own BMW, but it was Michael that did a 133.9mph lap and he won it fairly comfortably. Hutchy had won the Superstock and done a 133mph lap which is why he opted to run the stock engine in the Senior even though he had a full Superbike spec engine. 

But what made it such an interesting race was the fact that there was such needle between Hutchy and Dunlop all week.  

It was the year that Dunlop got disqualified from the Supersport race. I was in the 600 press conference and you could cut the atmosphere with a knife and it was even worse in the Senior press conference. 

Hutchy has always found it hard to beat Michael on a Superbike and that day was no different. For me the best man won on the day. 

Phillip McCallen – 11 time TT winner

2017 – “Making the impossible, possible”

Ivan Lintin at 2015 Lightweight TT

Michael didn’t finish the first Superbike race and practice hadn’t gone well for him either so everyone was doubting Michael and doubting the Suzuki so to come away with the Senior win was incredible. And this was heightened by the fact that as a team they hadn’t won anything coming into that final race. 

Everyone deserves credit, Michael for his determination and to the Hawk Racing who are a small team, but did a brilliant job. 

At the end of the race Michael gave a great quote ‘making the impossible, possible’. Look Michael likes to shoot his mouth off, but he had very good reason to that day. I know how hard it is to win a TT and there is even more pressure when it comes to the Senior. You’re tired, the bike is tired and the team are tired and it takes a big push of energy to go out there and win a six lap race at the end of two weks of practice and racing. 

Stephen Davison – Photographer and Journalist

2015 – “McGuinness’ last hurrah?”

Milky Quayle at 2002 Lightweight 400

The 2014 TT had seen Michael Dunlop claim four TT wins for the second year in a row and Bruce Anstey relieve John McGuinness of the Mountain course outright lap record the Morecambe man had held since 2004. McGuinness enjoyed the consolation of a brace of Zero race wins on the Mugen electric bike,but there was speculation ahead of the 2015 Senior that the 43 year old’s best days were behind him in the major TT races. Only an exceptional performance on the TT Legends Honda could stop the rot. 

With the Senior red flagged after two laps following Jamie Hamilton’s crash, McGuinness blasted into the lead of the restart with a 131mph standing start lap to lead Ian Hutchinson by 1.4 seconds. Digging deep, the Honda star set a new lap record at 132.701mph to establish a race winning lead he controlled to the chequered flag, finishing 14 seconds ahead of James Hillier with Hutchy slipping to third.   

His famous victory saw McGuinness claim his 23rd TT win, equal Mike Hailwood’s record of seven Senior wins and regain the outright lap record but without another win since, was it the TT legend’s last hurrah on the Mountain course?  

The prize!

When you vote, you’ll be entered into a free prize draw to win one of ten official Isle of Man TT black T-shirt 

Win this Official TT Backpack!

These hugely popular "Gold Bikes" T-Shirts feature the Isle of Man TT established date, 1907 – 2020 with the traditional course map on the reverse. 2020 dates official Isle of Man T-shirts could become very exclusive, so are a must for all TT fans from around the World. 

See the full range of Official Isle of Man TT Merchandise visit https://www.isleofmanttmerchandise.com – orders are processed with an immediate effect and World Wide Delivery is available. 

How to enter

Go to www.motorcyclenews.com/greatest-tt-races, pick your choice of the greatest Senior TT race and enter your details to be included in the draw. 

T&Cs: The prize draw closes at midnight June 2, 2020. This competition is open to British Isles residents aged 16 and over. There are ten prizes consisting of one official Isle of Man TT Black T-shirt (20ATS1). Winner must choose from sizes small-XL. The winners will be the first ten names drawn at random from all valid entries after the closing date and notified by email and have 30 to respond before an alternative winner is chosen. This prize may be offered in a limited number of other promotions. No purchase is necessary. To enter for free visit www.motorcyclenews.com/greatest-TT-races/. Full terms and conditions can be found at www.bauerlegal.co.uk/competition-terms.html  

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Michael Guy

By Michael Guy

Sports Editor, former 250-racer and adventure rider