MIKE HAMMONDS TT 2023 BLOG FOUR TT RACES
London Buses, The Baton of Hope and the Majestic Michael Dunlop
I was totally confused as to what the programme was for the fourth race day on Wednesday. The programme stated that the roads closed at 10:00am, a solo warm up lap at 10:30, the Monster Energy Supersport Race 2 at 11:45 and the 3Wheeling Sidecar Race 2 at 14:15.
The official website showed that the 3Wheeling Sidecar Race was first off at 11:45 and the Monster Energy Supersport Race was at 14:15. To add to my confusion the sidecars used to race in the afternoon when they last raced on a Wednesday with the Supersport in the morning.
It only became clear when Manx Radio started their pre-race build up after the warm up lap had been completed. The website was correct and the £Wheeling Sidecar Race 2 started at 11:45.
There were just 24 chairs lined up on the grid. It was a special moment for former TT winners #6 John Holden and #10 Conrad Harrisson and Andy Winkle who were starting their last TT race having announced that they were retiring.
John won two TT's in 2011 and 2016, coincidently with Andy Winkle in the chair, he also achieved 22 podium positions. Conrad has 10 podium finishes including standing on the top step in 2014. Passenger Andy Winkle has stood on the rostrum 13 times including his two race wins with John Holden. They will leave a massive hole in the sidecar entry, it is also rumoured that another two drivers out of the top ten crews were also considering retirement.
First away were Ben & Tom Birchall, Wyckham Blackwell - Birchall Racing 600cc LCR Honda, they were looking to equal Mike Hailwoods total of 14 TT wins. Next were Peter Founds & Jevan Walmsley, FHO Motorsport 600cc LCR Honda followed by the Crowe brothers, Haven Homes 600cc LCR Honda. 24th and last away was the Eclipse Racing / Wright stickers 600cc DMR Suzuki of Derek Lynch & Anthony McDonnell.
It wasn't long before the first retirement was announced, Manx crew Craig Melvin & Stuart Christian only got as far as Braddan Church before they had to pull out. The news nobody wanted to hear was that Conrad Harrison and Andy Winkle, Town Garage Horsforth 600cc Ireson Honda, had stopped at Ballaugh and called it a day.
Andy had been struggling with ligament issues in his shoulder and he was unable to hold on. A sad end to two great TT careers. Newcomers Daryl Gibson and Tom Christie, who finished sixth in race 1, were also announced as a retirement at Barrgerrow on the first lap.
The Birchalls led at the end of the lap by 4.512s from Peter Founds & Jevan Walmsley with Ryan and Callam Crowe a further 15.697s in third. The Barnes Racing & Carl Cox Motorsport 600cc LCR Yamaha of veteran John Holden with Maxime Vasseur in the chair were fourth, Tim Reeves & Mark Wilkes, Bonovo Action Racing / Carl Cox 600cc LCR Yamaha in fifth and Manx legends Dave Molyneux / Dan Sayle, Kel Properties 890cc DMR KTM in sixth.
John Holden stopped at Kirk Michael on the second circuit to check that passenger Maxime Vasseur was okay, who had been struggling with an injury. He said that he was okay so they rejoined the race. Manx crew Darren Hope and Lenny Bumfrey, Hope / Bumfrey Racing 600cc LCR Honda, retired in the pits at the end of the first lap and then news came through that Molyneux and Sayle had retired at Sulby.
The Birchall's broke their newly established lap record with another 120+mph lap at 120.645mph and led Founds by 11.630s, the Crowes losing ground in third. Tim Reeves had moved up to fourth with father and son pairing of Steve and Matty Ramsden, Ramsden Racing / Storage Solutions, 600cc LCR Honda in fifth. John Holden had dropped to seventh.
It has taken 100 years to achieve the first 120+mph sidecar lap of the TT Course and just like London buses two come at once. Pete Founds and Jevan Walmsley were determined not to let the Birchalls have everything their own way and they too broke the 120mph barrier on their final circuit. They broke the timing beam in 18 minutes 51.154s, an average speed of 120.079mph to finish second, 9.147s behind the Birchalls. The Crowe's kept the Manx flag flying in third followed by Tim Reeves / Mark Wilkes, the Ramsden and Gary Bryan / Philip Hyde, SWC Groundworks/TTS Support 600cc Baker Honda, in sixth.
John Holden brought the curtain down on his TT career in seventh. Newcomers, Derek Lynch and Anthony McDonnell were 14th of the 16 finishers with a race average of 104.625mph which was faster that thier previous fastest lap. They received the Stan Dibben Trophy for having the most improved race time over race 1. Their fastest lap was on their final circuit at 105.318mph.
One of many crews to achieve a personal best was the White Rose racing father and son pair of Shaun & Ben Chandler. They finished 12th with a final lap of 106.707mph; last year they announced their retirement from sidecar racing!!
There was disappointment for Michael Russel and Vicky Cooke, RAM Safety Solutions 600cc LCR Suzuki, who retired at the Bungalow on the final lap, thwarting Michael's chance of finishing all 10 races at this year's TT.
The Birchalls have now equalled Mike Hailwood's record of 14 TT victories and have now won the last 11 consecutive races. They now have Dave Molyneux' record of 17 wins in their sights but Founds and Jevan may have other thoughts. The bigger question is how to secure the future of sidecar racing and increase the size of the sidecar grid.
The Baton of Hope was launched on the start line prior to the start of the Monster Energy Supersport Race 2. Co-founder of the charity passed the baton to James Hillier, it will now go to various sporting events through the UK. The baton was put on display in the Fans Zone at Nobles Park near to the Grandstand. The Baton of Hope is a UK suicide prevention iniative and charity. It aims to be a symbol for those who are going through suicide bereavement or struggling with mental health.
The Monster Energy Supersport Race 2 started at 2 o'clock with David Johnson, C&LFairburnProperties/JacksonRacing CBR600RR Honda, leading the 46 strong field away. It wasn't long before the field was down to 45 when Frenchman Pierre-Yves Bian, Triumph Daytona ST765RS K2 Trooper Triumph by PHR, retired at the Braddan Oak Tree. James Hillier also failed to complete the lap when he retired his Boyce Precision Engineering / Russell Racing Yamaha R6, at Whitegates.
The race turned out to be nearly a carbon copy of race one with Michael Dunlop, MD Racing Yamaha YZF-R6 BN6, winning his 25th TT from start to finish. This is the third time he has won four races in a week and is now on course to equal or beat Ian Hutchinson's five victories in 2010.
He is now just one short of equalling his uncle's 26 TT wins between 1976 and 2000. Joey's first win was the 1977 Schweppes Jubilee Classic. Michael described himself as having the personality of a sock and said that he really didn't like people, on the ITV 4 docu-series 'No Room for Error'. I couldn't comment on that but what I do know is that he is one of the most talented, professional, dedicated and self driven racers on the grid anywhere in the world. He is his own man.
It was a record breaking performance with new lap and race records being set. History was created on the fourth lap when Michael Dunlop became the first to lap the TT Course at over 130mph on a 600cc Supersport machine. His time was 17 minutes 21.605s, an average speed of 130.403mph. Peter Hickman was also pushing hard and he too broke the 130mph barrier on the last lap on the final at 130.219. It was just like London buses again!!
Peter Hickman, Triumph Daytona ST765RS K2 Trooper Triumph by PHR, finished 9.618s behind Dunlop in second with Dean Harrison, Boyce Precision Engineering / Russell Racing, 24.811s adrift of Hickman in third. Davy Todd, Milenco by Padgett’s Motorcycles Honda CBR600RR, returned to form in fourth with Jaime Coward, KTS powered by Stanley Stewart Racing amaha YZF-R6 BN6, in fifth and James Hind, Bass Tyre Services Yamaha YZF-R6 BN6, in sixth.
There was no luck for Michael Russell, Kawasaki ZX-636-R Fraser Evans Tyre Recycling, when he retired in the pits at the end of the third lap. He had been holding 29th place with a race average of 116.252mph. This record todate is seven starts and five finishes.
There were 38 finishers with 12 silver replicas, 19 bronze replicas and 7 finishers plaques were awarded. The best newcomer was Manxman Ryan Cringle who finished in 18th place with an average of 118.075mph and won a bronze replica.