Friday 19 July 2019

Birchall brothers make it a legend-matching ten wins at TT races

The Birchall Brothers took both sidecar race wins at the TT. Photo Jack Corry
The Birchall Brothers took both sidecar race wins at the TT. Photo Jack Corry

Jack Corry - Corry Corner

Ben and Tom Birchall matched the ten wins of TT legend Rob Fisher when they took their second victory of the week in the second Sidecar that was reduced to two laps.

The brothers overcame the early challenge of John Holden/Lee Cain to win by more than 20 seconds, with Pete Founds/Jevan Walmsley sealing the final podium position in third. It was Holden's 12th podium in a row, with Founds/Walmsley finishing in third and taking their first podium since 2016. The Irish pairing of Terry O'Reilly and Eamon Mulholland retired on the second lap.

Peter Hickman took his third win of the TT Festival when he won the three-lap Superstock race that included a mandatory pit stop for all riders at the end of lap one.

Once more it was Dean Harrison who chased Hickman around the Mountain course, but it was the battle for third that entertained the massive crowd, with Michael Dunlop locked in battle with Honda rider David Johnston. The pair were locked together as they raced down the mountain for the last time, and at the flag it was the Australian who took the final podium by just 0.208 of a second from Dunlop.

Brian McCormack was once more on form, taking another 11th place, and a silver replica, while Paul Jordan was 14th, Shaun Anderson 16th, Micko Sweeney 18th, James Chawke 23rd and Davy Morgan 34th.

With Derek McGee missing from the start of the Lightweight race after a heavy spill at Greeba Castle, it was Michael Dunlop who made history for road racing's most famous family when he took the 50th win for the Dunlop family (Joey 26, Michael 19, and Robert 5) on the Italian Paton, repeating his 2018 win in the class.

The Ballymoney rider hadn't it all his own way, though. While his lead at Ramsey on lap one over Jamie Coward was four seconds, Dunlop seemed to struggle over the mountain and by the end of the lap he slipped to second, albeit just 0.748 of a second behind Coward, with Lee Johnston in third and North West winner Stefano Bonetti in fourth.

By Ballaugh bridge on the final lap the lead for Coward was just 0.163 of a second, but at Ramsey, Dunlop had edged in front by 1.431 seconds, with Lee Johnston slipping back and Paul Jordan up into a brilliant fourth place.

Despite a lap in excess of 122mph, Coward was edged out by only 1.299 seconds by Dunlop but had the consolation of taking his first TT podium, with Dunlop taking his 19th TT win. Lee Johnston took third place, with Paul Jordan fourth.

Limerick rider James Chawke was flying in his first TT, and he took an excellent 11th place, with Shaun Anderson in 16th place. Micko Sweeney was forced to sit out the race after his Keily Heating Kawasaki blew up in practice.

The Senior TT is regarded as the most prestigious race of the TT and Senior race day is a bank holiday in the Isle of Man, and the six-lap race was the only race of the festival to run its full six-lap distance, and it turned out to be a dramatic finale.

It was Dean Harrison who took the win after long-time leader Peter Hickman ran into trouble on the fifth lap. Hickman had opened up an 18-second lead at two-thirds race distance, but he slowed when the bike overheated on the penultimate lap of the Mountain Course which allowed Harrison to sweep through for his third TT victory. Hickman held on for second, 53.062sec behind, with Conor Cummins taking third.

With good conditions all around, Hickman led from Harrison at Glen Helen first time around as expected, but it was close, with the gap just 0.351sec. The duo had already opened up a near six-second advantage over third-placed Cummins. Michael Dunlop, Michael Rutter and David Johnson were lying in fourth, fifth and sixth respectively.

After the first round of pit stops, Hickman's lead had grown to 10 seconds by the time he got to Glen Helen on the third lap and Cummins had also pulled away from Dunlop in the battle for the final podium spot, the difference now almost 11 seconds. Rutter had closed in on Todd, though, and they were split by only 1.4sec.

Coming into the second pit stop, Hickman's lead over Harrison had increased again, up now to 17.6sec after lapping at 133.55mph, as Cummins got more and more secure in third. Todd remained in fifth.

The pit stops saw a significant change at the top of the timings, though, and by Glen Helen on the fifth lap Harrison had brought the lead down to 7.9sec as Hickman went through the first sector over nine seconds slower than his Kawasaki rival. The drama continued and at Ballaugh, Harrison had brought the gap down to just 1.1sec, with Hickman going through the subsequent Sulby speed trap at just 159mph, 30mph slower than Harrison.

Going through Ramsey for the penultimate time, there was a new race leader as Harrison took the lead for the first time and he now led by almost eight seconds. Harrison pressed on and with an untroubled final lap, he duly took his third TT win by 53.062sec, but with Hickman's pace slowing all eyes fell on whether or not he could hold onto second place. He did it just, as he held off Cummins by 5.8sec.

It definitely wasn't the most memorable TT, although to see Michael Dunlop take the 50th TT win for the Dunlop family was special - but there is no doubt that Hickman and Harrison are the stars that will light up the TT for many years to come.

Fingal Independent