Michael Dunlop continued to tear up the record book on the final day of the 2014 TT races by claiming his maiden Senior triumph after a pulsating six lap race.
|Dunlop took four TT wins in a week for the second time
Photo: Paddock Chatter
The 25-year old overcame determined efforts firstly from William Dunlop, then Guy Martin and Connor Cummins to take his fourth win of the week and the eleventh of his career.
Dunlop’s winning margin was a comfortable 15 seconds from Cummins, who kept him honest throughout the six laps, even closing to within half that margin (six seconds) on the penultimate lap. Yet his major concern was for his brother William, who dramatically crashed out of proceedings on the third lap at the Graham memorial, breaking two bones in his lower leg. Dunlop was airlifted to Nobles hospital and was discharged just hours after the incident.
The final race of the week got underway under blue skies and perfect conditions and the opening two laps packed enough drama for a week of racing. William Dunlop led at Glen Helen from a fast starting Cummins, Martin and Dean Harrison with Michael seventh. The top nine riders were covered by just 3.3 seconds after nine miles of racing.
Michael Dunlop regained the lead with a determined charge over the mountain but his lead was still less than a second at the close of the first lap as he, Martin, Cummins, William Dunlop and Harrison all posted laps over 130mph.
Dunlop upped his pace to 131.668mph on lap two but his lead was halved to five seconds after the first pit stop as Cummins closed in thanks to an efficient stop. The third lap proved to be one of attrition as Harrison retired on the Sulby Straight, William Dunlop crashed out over the mountain and newcomer Martin Jessopp fell at Govenor’s Bridge, thankfully escaping injury.
Martin lost more time to Cummins in second on the fourth lap and the leaders on the road came across the aftermath of William’s crash on the descent up the mountain. “We come across the bother on the mountain and lost a load of time. It was the right thing to do, we slowed down for the yellow flags. I lost a load of time to Connor and I never pulled it back,” Martin said afterwards. For Dunlop, seeing his brother’s wreckage was a sobering sight but he maintained his concentration to the end. “When you see a mess like that lying on the side of the road the first thing on my mind: I don’t give a shit about racing,” he said after the race.
With the gap remaining around ten seconds the crowd could sense a local upset on the cards. Cummins was cheered throughout his final two laps as he, again, took seven seconds out of Dunlop’s lead in the second pit stop. “I knew we’d struggle in the pits, the back wheel wouldn’t go in the way we wanted it. I just upped my game again,” Dunlop said afterwards. At that point he had caught Martin, James Hillier and John McGuinness on the road and was negotiating his way through some chronic traffic.
After Harrison’s exit Hillier and McGuinness were sitting in fourth and fifth places before another late charge from Bruce Anstey brought him up to fourth at the Bungalow on the final lap. For McGuinness, sixth place represented a fine end to a difficult week that was plagued by the wrist injury sustained earlier in the year. “I set off in a positive frame of mind today and got a better start than I did on Saturday. When the boys came past me, I thought ‘I just want to stay with them’ and a couple of good pit stops helped me out,” he said.
Cummins put in a brave effort but Dunlop’s win was never in doubt on the final lap as he controlled the race to its close. He crossed the line 14 seconds clear of the Manxman with Martin a further nine seconds back.
The win brings Michael alongside island legends Steve Hislop and Phillip McCallen in terms of overall wins and still at the tender age of 25, Dunlop seemingly has time to surpass them all.
Having switched manufacturers and arrived on the island with a bike mainly untried and tested around the 37 mile circuit, his four win haul represents an astonishing achievement. The win on Friday was BMW’s first in the race since Georg Meier won the 1939 Senior on a RS Kompressor.
“This is the only race I haven’t won at the TT. I remember my dad saying that Steve was one of the best he had ever seen around here, something special. To have the same number of victories as him is fantastic,” he said.
Josh Brookes finished an impressive seventh with a final lap of 129.859mph ahead of Dan Kneen, Michael Rutter and David Johnson. Perhaps the most impressive final lap came from Peter Hickman, whose 129.104mph effort eclipsed Brookes’ previous newcomer’s best of 127.726 set in 2013.
Yet the 2014 event will, once again, be remembered for Dunlop’s exploits. “The first lap wasn’t great for me. My first board said ‘P7’,” he said. “We done changes and the bike didn’t like it. But I just battered on and before I knew it I was leading at the Bungalow. I stuck in another lap and it was up to about five or six seconds. My board was going up and down. When you catch people at the top of the game there aren’t a lot of places to pass. I pulled the gap out to about ten seconds and we caught a lot of backmarkers and make sure we had a cushion to take me home alright.”
Second place was Cummin’s best TT finish since the 2009 Senior event. He said, “I knew it was going to be a really fast pace. I got a good start and worked really hard for the whole six laps. The boys have worked really hard for the whole two weeks for me. It was a nice race. I really enjoyed it. I’m back running at the front and long may it continue. We’ll come back next year even stronger.”
Speaking after the race Martin was slightly aggrieved at the time lost while slowing for William’s incident on the mountain, something he felt other riders didn’t do. “It’s me team-mate and Michael’s brother so we didn’t know what had gone on. We were getting boards similar to Saturday.” he said. Reflecting on another TT where that illusive win escaped him once more he said, “I’m dead happy for the team. The bike never missed a beat. Everyone’s got on. Michael has always been bloody fast. I rode with him today. He’s got everything, smooth fast. So fair play.”