- Boy howdy is Dean Harrison fast
- Is Michael Dunlop going to get another four-win fortnight?
- Is anyone else going to see the podium?
The 2018 Isle of Man TT is officially underway, with three fantastic races in the books. In the opening race, Dean Harrison set the outright lap record on his first lap, then faded somewhat before a clutch failure forced a disappointing DNF and handed Michael Dunlop his 16th TT win. In the first supersport race, Michael Dunlop set a new 600cc record on the Mountain Course and won comfortably. In the third and most recent race, Peter Hickman missed a turn on his superstock bike, got back on track, and then broke the superstock lap record and wrestled the race away from Michael Dunlop.
With just two major races remaining, the Monster Energy Supersport TT Race 2 and the all-important Senior TT, here are the most important questions for TT fans and bettors alike.
Can Dean Harrison keep up the pace?
- Odds Dean Harrison gets a 2018 TT win: 4/1
This race week at the Isle of Man has been utterly dominated by Peter Hickman, Michael Dunlop, and Dean Harrison. It’s their world, and we’re all just living in it. Even within that group, Dean Harrison stands alone in terms of outright pace, having recorded an unmatched 134.432 mph lap.
Dean Harrison broke the 134 mph barrier on his first lap of the first race, the RST Superbike race, opening up a 16-second lead over Michael Dunlop before the first pit stop. Dunlop was able to claw that lead back, and by the time Harrison was forced to retire on lap four he was only a few seconds ahead.
Harrison also led at the beginning of the RL360 Superstock TT, but was caught up by (you guessed it) Michael Dunlop and Peter Hickman. All three broke the superstock record that race, but Harrison faded to third.
That seems to be the theme so far with Harrison: hot pace early on, but eventually caught up by Dunlop and Hickman as the race wears on. It’s not often you see a rider go fastest in his first lap, not with things like fuel weight, tire temperature, and a standing start to deal with, but that appears to be Harrison’s style. If he can maintain his pace and advantage in the Senior TT, he’ll be nearly unbeatable.
Peter Hickman stared down Michael Dunlop and won. Can he do it again?
- Odds Peter Hickman wins the Senior TT: 13/7
The duel between Hickman and Dunlop in the RL360 Superstock race was a classic, and deeply impressive on Hickman’s part. Michael Dunlop was certainly on the pace, and even eked out an advantage at the start of lap four, so Hickman was forced to win the hard way: with outright pace over the mountain. Hickman set a sector record between Ramsey and Bungalow and set a new superstock record of 134.403 mph, almost an outright lap record.
Hickman needed those record setting laps to make up ground after a bad error on lap one. He braked too late into Bradddan, missed the corner, and had to detour around a tree. He rejoined the race in 9th, and was thus forced to give everything he had. Who knew that the road to your first TT win can sometime wind around a tree?
For Hickman’s first ever TT win, it’s a stunning debut. It’ll be interesting to see what pace he can achieve in the Senior TT on Friday, and if he can set an outright lap record on a superbike. Is 134.5 possible? 135? Where is this going?
Is Michael Dunlop having his best week in years?
- Over/Under Michael Dunlop 2018 wins: 3.5
Even the most strident Dunlop fans will acknowledge that his win in the superbike race was at least made a lot easier by Dean Harrison’s unfortunate clutch failure. However, with two wins in the first three races, and a stronger performance on the superstock bike than we’ve seen from Dunlop in years, we could be in the middle of another three-or-four win blowout.
Here’s why that’s possible: Dunlop’s pace on the supersport bike was record-setting stuff, a 129.197 mph lap makes his earlier claims about 130 mph being possible look slightly less crazy. If his biggest competitors this week are Harrison and Hickman, then Dunlop is feeling great about his supersport performance: he caught up to Harrison on the road and managed a comfortable lead over Hickman. The supersport race is probably Michael Dunlop’s best chance to record a third win this week.
The Senior TT will be more difficult, particularly with the pace Hickman and Harrison have displayed this week. Dean Harrison set the outright lap record on a cold bike heavy with fuel from a standing start and Peter Hickman nearly broke it on a bike you can more or less buy from your local BMW dealer. To his credit, he had almost entirely caught Harrison up when Harrison’s clutch failed, and his pace in the superstock race was almost as impressive as Hickman’s. Winning his third straight Senior TT will be a difficult feat for Michael Dunlop, but it certainly won’t be impossible.
Who will hold the outright lap record at the end of the fortnight?
- Odds outright lap record is broken during 2018 Senior TT: 1/1
- Odds Dean Harrison holds the record after the Senior TT: 2/3
- Odds Peter Hickman holds the record after the Senior TT: 3/1
- Odds Michael Dunlop holds the record after the Senior TT: 17/3
Sebastian Coe used to say that world records are never owned, only borrowed. Holding the outright lap record doesn’t mean much in real terms, there isn’t a podium ceremony and most riders and fans use TT wins to compare rider’s careers, but it still means something to the riders.
Right now the honor is Dean Harrison’s, after his opening lap heroics in the RST Superbike TT. If nothing changes, or even if it rains a little too much on Friday, Harrison will spend a year talking to sponsors and anyone who will listen about his outright lap record. Hickman came very close in the RL360 Superstock TT, but came up just short on the production bike. Those two laps point to the lap record being slightly soft, and raise the question: what can these two do on their fastest bikes, from a flying start? With decent weather forecast for the Senior TT, we’re hopefully going to find out, and the outright lap record could change hands (maybe even more than once) in the last race of the fortnight.
My money is on Hickman. Harrison’s lap was incredible, but there’s only so much you can do from a standing start and Hickman got very, very close on a far inferior bike. Of course, Dunlop could very well put the hammer down in the Senior TT, but we haven’t yet seen what Hickman can really do.