Ian Hutchinson clinched his 15th Isle of Man TT victory for Northern Ireland’s Tyco BMW team in a pulsating RST Superbike race on Sunday.
The Bingley Bullet sealed a hard-earned win by five seconds from Peter Hickman on the Smiths BMW, with Dean Harrison taking third as he finished a further eight seconds back on the Silicone Engineering Kawasaki. Hutchinson has now moved ahead of Mike Hailwood on the all-time TT winners' roll of honour.
There was massive disappointment for Ballymoney’s Michael Dunlop, who was leading the race when he was forced out with a problem on the Bennetts Suzuki at Handley’s corner on lap two.
The 28-year-old had an advantage of 1.4 seconds over Harrison after setting a scorching opening lap of 131.135mph before running into trouble. Dunlop’s standing start lap was the quickest of the race.
After being switched from Saturday due to a revamp of the race schedule, Superbike Sunday proved worth the wait as a thrilling battle developed for the lead involving James Hillier (JG Speedfit Kawasaki), Harrison, Hutchinson and the late-charging Peter Hickman (Smiths BMW).
Following Dunlop’s demise, it was Harrison who held the advantage as he opened a gap of 5.4 seconds over Hillier after lapping at 130.907mph on lap two, with Hickman in third ahead of Hutchinson.
Yorkshireman Hutchinson gained time after a brilliant first stop by his team but it was Harrison who still led by 4.2 seconds at Ramsey on the third lap, with Hickman six seconds back.
However, Hutchinson – who has made the switch to Dunlop tyres this year – was beginning to find his groove on the S1000RR and had slashed Harrison’s lead to 1.2 seconds at the Bungalow on the Mountain.
The 37-year-old continued to make up ground and snatched the lead for the first time in the race as they moved onto lap four, with Harrison only 0.4 seconds adrift. Hickman was also upping the tempo as the TT’s fastest ever newcomer held third, 3.1 seconds behind Harrison.
The pendulum swung again as Bradford rider Harrison battled back to lead at Glen Helen by six tenths from Hutchinson, who forced his way back into the lead again by the time they reached Ramsey hairpin, but only by 0.070 seconds.
The second round of pit stops again saw Hutchinson come out on top as he gained five seconds, which enabled him to pull a gap of nine seconds by Glen Helen on the penultimate lap over Hillier, who had moved up to second.
Harrison dropped time in the pits and was now fourth behind Hickman, who was less than a second back on Hillier as the Smiths Racing rider began to mount a charge.
At the end of the lap, Hickman came through to take up the pursuit of Hutchinson, with the pair separated by 7.9 seconds at the Grandstand.
At Glen Helen, the difference was now only 2.5 seconds as slower riders began to enter the equation. Harrison had now taken third from Hillier, who was a huge 1m 23 seconds ahead of Dan Kneen in fifth. The Manx rider earlier lost time after incurring a 10-second penalty for speeding in pit lane.
Hickman cut the gap to 1.6 seconds at Ramsey as Hutchinson began his final run over the Mountain, but he was unable to bridge the deficit as the Tyco BMW rider dug deep to open a cushion of a few seconds at the Bungalow.
Hutchinson maintained his advantage to close out a deserved victory – his third success in the Superbike class. His previous two wins were achieved during his unprecedented five-timer in 2010.
Hutchy lapped at 130.738mph on his last lap but Hickman clocked 131.103mph to set the second quickest speed of the race as he celebrated his maiden podium. Hillier took fourth behind Harrison, with Kneen fifth on the Penz13.com BMW.
Michael Rutter completed the first six on the Bathams SMT BMW ahead of Norton’s David Johnson, with team-mate Josh Brookes in eighth.
William Dunlop was ninth on the Temple Golf Club Yamaha and the top ten was rounded out by Martin Jessopp (Riders Motorcycles BMW).
Honda Racing’s Guy Martin crashed on the first lap at Doran’s but was reported to be unhurt.
Bruce Anstey was 13th on the Padgett’s Honda RC213V-S after stopping at Ramsey on lap four before continuing on his away again.