Michael Dunlop claimed his 16th Isle of Man TT victory in a record-breaking RST Superbike race on Saturday and dedicated his win to the memory of team-mate Dan Kneen.
Dunlop clinched an emotional triumph for Northern Ireland’s Tyco BMW squad, which was left stunned following the tragic death of Manx rider Kneen in a crash in practice on Wednesday.
Just as Adrian Archibald lifted spirits in the TAS Racing team following the death of David Jefferies 15 years ago at the TT in 2003, Dunlop won the opening race of the 2018 meeting in a fitting tribute to his team-mate.
He was a comfortable winner in the end on the S1000RR from Conor Cummins, who rode a superb race on the Padgett’s Honda to seal second place. James Hillier completed the top three on the JG Speedfit Kawasaki.
Bradford’s Dean Harrison was cruelly ruled out on lap four at Sulby crossroads with a clutch issue after shattering a host of records on the Silicone Engineering Kawasaki.
Harrison blitzed the outright lap record from a standing start with a speed of 134.432mph, a time of 16m 50.384s.
He led Dunlop by 11.3 seconds after the first lap, with the Ulster rider clocking his opening lap at 132.943mph. Cummins was 9.1s further back in third, although there was huge disappointment for Peter Hickman on the Smiths BMW, who retired in the pits.
On a scorching second lap, Harrison fired in another sub 17-minute lap and his second at over 134mph with a speed of 134.180mph as he slowed for the first pit-stop.
His advantage over Dunlop after the pit-stop was 14.8s, which he increased to 16.1s by the time they reached Glen Helen on lap three.
However, Dunlop began to up his pace and he was making inroads into Harrison’s lead, cutting the deficit to 15.4s at Ballaugh and reducing the gap further to 14.3s at Ramsey.
At the end of the lap, Harrison’s lead was now 11.5 seconds over Dunlop, with Cummins holding onto third, 29.5 seconds behind.
The Tyco BMW rider was beginning to turn the screw and at Glen Helen, Harrison – who set off 10 seconds ahead of Dunlop at number five – now had an advantage of nine seconds.
Harrison suddenly had a race on his hands but it seemed there may be something amiss when his lead was just 4.6 seconds at Ballaugh and shortly afterwards, it was confirmed that 29-year-old had stopped at Sulby crossroads.
Dunlop now had a huge lead over Cummins of 38s and he was able to manage his pace for the remainder of the six-lap race, closing out his 16th TT win to draw level with Ian Hutchinson on the roll of honour as the joint third most successful riders ever behind Joey Dunlop (26) and John McGuinness (23). Dunlop set a new Superbike race record of 1h 44m 13.398s.
Cummins took the runner-up spot, 50.8s behind, with Hillier another 21.66s adrift in third.
The top six was completed by David Johnson on the Gulf BMW, who was 32.718s behind Hillier, with Michael Rutter (Bathams BMW) and Fermanagh’s Lee Johnston (Honda Racing) finalising the top six.
Martin Jessopp, Ivan Lintin, Phillip Crowe and Josh Brookes on the Norton were the first ten.
Shaun Anderson finished in 13th on his Suzuki ahead of Derek Sheils (Penz BMW), Derek McGee (Kawasaki) and impressive newcomer Davey Todd in 16th, who was making his TT race debut on the Burrows Engineering Suzuki.
Ian Hutchinson (Honda Racing) was among the retirements.