Michael Dunlop clinched his first Superbike victory for five years to tie John McGuinness’s 23 overall wins at the Isle of Man TT and become the second-most successful rider in history.
In what proved a dominant display from start to finish, 34-year-old Dunlop moved to within just three victories of the all-time record number of TT wins, the tally of 26 set by his uncle Joey 22 years ago now realistically within his grasp.
“I’m delighted, the bike is good, I feel good and happy,” Dunlop said. “I have never worried about records but John is a fantastic ambassador for the sport so to equal him is great, but just delighted for my boys and the team.”
But despite taking victory on Sunday by a comfortable 8.233 seconds, he was not able to repeat his record-breaking heroics from qualifying as instead Peter Hickman emerged with a new Superbike TT lap record, which proved enough to pip rival Dean Harrison to the runner-up spot for the second time in 24 hours.
Dunlop was the sixth bike away from the start line but was already on top of the timesheets by Glen Helen, building a lead of more than six seconds by the end of the fast lap with an astonishing 134.519mph lap that eclipsed Harrison’s previous best in the 2018 Superbike TT – even from a standing start.
The Northern Irishman went one better on the second lap, clocking an average of 135.046mph as he came into the pits ahead of Harrison and Hickman, who had fought his way back into third place as Davey Todd’s challenge suffered problems with his rear tyre.
Dunlop’s Hawk Racing Honda team were not the fastest in the pits, but the Ballymoney native exuded control as he controlled matters at the front of the field, and by the time he pitted for his second stop at the end of lap four, the gap had grown to a mammoth 22 seconds, leaving little doubt as to who would be standing on top of the podium yet again following Saturday’s Supersport Ract One victory.
But just like Saturday’s curtain-raiser, the race was on for second place, with Hickman taking advantage of slow stops for Dunlop and Harrison to take four-and-a-half seconds out of the latter – and a further two seconds out of leader Dunlop – to trail Dao Racing Kawasaki’s Harrison by fewer than four seconds with two laps remaining.
At the start of the final tour, 2.433 seconds split Harrison and Hickman, with the battle for second hinging on any advantage the former could eke out over the first half of the lap where he held the stronger pace. Crucially though, Harrison hit lapped traffic coming out of Glen Helen where two riders blocked his path and it allowed Hickman to edge in front by the time they reached Ballaugh, heading towards his superior sectors across the Mountain.
However, Hickman’s battle was quickly becoming less about Harrison and more his outright lap record of 135.452mph, with the FHO Racing BMW rider three seconds inside the time required at the Ramsey Hairpin.
All was not smooth with the nine-time TT winner though, as he revealed after the race his quickshifter – a crucial component required for seamless gear changes – plus brake issues were hampering him throughout the race, and as the leaders hit yellow flags towards the end of the final lap, all eyes were on the timesheets.
After Harrison and Dunlop had flashed past the finish line, the latter securing his second win of the week, Hickman split the beam and clocked a lap of 135.445mph, agonisingly 0.007mph off his 2018 outright record but enough to beat Dunlop’s lap-two time to take the Superbike TT record.
“I am happy enough,” said Hickman. “Right from the start I knew I was in for a very long race. [The quick-shift stopped working and the auto-blip, so right from the start we were beaten in regards to the race win, and the bike is so violent that it is pushing the pads back in the callipers and I have to pump the brakes up at every braking point, go for the brake three times, which is a little disconcerting when you are trying to go fast.
“I saved myself for the last two laps, and particularly the last one as much as I dared considering the problems with the bike.”
Harrison cut a disconsolate figure in the winners’ enclosure immediately after the race as he rued letting second place slip, but took the positives out of another strong showing in what was a repeat podium from Saturday’s Supersport race.
“I am over the moon to be honest,” he said. “Michael is on fire, so pleased to run with these boys. It is so physically demanding and mentally demanding, I’m happy to have a day off tomorrow.”
Such was the lead trio’s dominance, they finished more than two minutes ahead of the rest of the field, with James Hillier coming home in fourth just in front of Jamie Coward, with McGuinness rounding out the top six. Running will continue on Tuesday with the first Superstock and Supertwin races.
What is the Isle of Man TT?
Over the course of two weeks, the public roads of the Isle of Man shut down and become one of the fastest race circuits in the world, eclipsed only by the Ulster Grand Prix in Northern Ireland which currently boasts the fastest lap average.
The TT features five different categories that this year will all race twice over the course of eight days. Solo riders will jump between Superbike, Superstock, Supersport and Supertwin machines, while riders will team up with a passenger to compete in the two Sidecar races.
Events are very weather-dependent and lengthy delays can occur, particularly when public roads are used throughout the fortnight when races are not taking place - oil spills, parked cars and rogue wildlife are a common occurrence.
Where can I watch it?
For years, coverage of the TT has only been available through TV highlight shows on ITV4 each night. But last year TT organisers unveiled new plans to provide live coverage online through the TT+ Live Pass, which returns again for 2023.
Access will cost a one-off sum of £19.99 for the fortnight, which will include coverage of all qualifying and race sessions, daily round-ups and hours of exclusive TT programming.
You can also follow race week with Telegraph Sport.
Isle of Man TT 2023 schedule and results
Monster Energy Supersport Race One results
1. Michael Dunlop 01:11:22.090
2. Peter Hickman +12.329
3. Dean Harrison +0.393
4. Jamie Coward +41.277
5. Davey Todd +2.836
3Wheeling.Media Sidecar TT Race 1
1. Ben Birchall/Tom Birchall 56:53.768
2. Peter Founds/Jevan Walmsley +24.066
3. John Holden/Maxime Vasseur +3:15.401
4. Steve Ramsden/Mathew Ramsden +3.551
5. Gary Bryan/Philip Hyde +16.212
RST Superbike TT
1. Michael Dunlop 1:43:01.854
2. Peter Hickman +8.233
3. Dean Harrison +9.806
4. James Hillier +2:00.343
5. Jamie Coward +10.440
11:45am: RL360 Superstock TT Race 1 - 3-laps
2pm: Carole Nash Supertwin TT Race 1 - 3-laps
11:45am: Monster Energy Supersport TT Race 2 - 4-laps
2:15pm: 3wheeling.media Sidecar TT Race 2 - 3-laps
11:45am: RL360 Superstock TT Race 2 - 3-laps
2pm: Carole Nash Supertwin TT Race 2 - 3-laps
12:15pm: Milwaukee Senior TT - 6-laps
Who are the riders to watch?
Peter Hickman is expected to be the man to beat in 2023 after winning nine of the last 16 solo races [not including the TT Zero race. Hickman also has the outright lap record, an average of 135.452mph set back in the 2018 Senior TT, as well as the Superstock TT record. The Monster Energy by FHO Racing BMW rider is certainly one to keep an eye on.
Hickman’s main competitor over those years has been Dean Harrison. Riding this year on the Dao Racing Kawasaki, Harrison has three wins to his name including the 2019 Senior TT.
But both will be keeping an eye on the threat of 21-time TT winner Michael Dunlop, who looks to be in his best form in years and has hit the ground running during qualifying week. Dunlop sits just five race wins behind his uncle Joey Dunlop, who remains the man with the most TT wins in history, and with eight solo race wins up for grabs in 2023 - more than ever before - that gap could be cut significantly by the end of the week.
The Padgetts Honda duo of Davey Todd and local Manxman Conor Cummins are also hotly tipped to be on the pace, although the latter has been struggling with illness throughout qualifying week, while Hickman’s British Superbikes team-mate Josh Brookes returns to the TT for the first time since 2018 and is already threatening the 130mph barrier.
Another TT legend to keep one eye on is John McGuinness, the 24-time winner who is within a whisker of matching Joey Dunlop’s record. At the age of 51 years old, McGuinness’ fastest days may be behind him but he has his sights set on returning to the podium this year with Honda Racing and the veteran can never be ruled out of contention if things are going his way.
How many riders have died?
The TT would not be the challenge it is without its level of risk and danger. In total, 266 riders and passengers have died on the Snaefell Mountain Course, which hosts the TT as well as the Manx Grand Prix and the Classic TT.
There have been 155 deaths caused by accidents in the TT alone, with 2022 proving particularly tragic as six deaths were recorded over the fortnight.