Michael Dunlop 'struggling' with injuries but posts third fastest time in Superbike qualifying at Classic TT

Michael Dunlop on the Team Classic Suzuki XR69 during Superbike practice on Friday. Picture: Dave Kneen/Pacemaker Press.
Michael Dunlop on the Team Classic Suzuki XR69 during Superbike practice on Friday. Picture: Dave Kneen/Pacemaker Press.
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Michael Dunlop battled through the pain barrier as he completed his first laps at the Classic TT since 2017 on Friday.

Dunlop did one lap in the afternoon session at 119.89mph and upped his pace from a standing start in the evening session to 123.28mph.

John McGuinness will start as the favourite on the Paton in Saturday's Senior Classic race. Picture: Dave Kneen/Pacemaker Press.

John McGuinness will start as the favourite on the Paton in Saturday's Senior Classic race. Picture: Dave Kneen/Pacemaker Press.

He only arrived on the Isle of Man on Wednesday but the 30-year-old did not miss out on much track time as poor weather disrupted practice week.

The 19-time TT winner is battered and bruised following his crash at the Southern 100 in July, which left him with a reported broken pelvis and hip joint.

Dunlop then aggravated a wrist injury when he rode at Armoy, where he won both Superbike races on the Tyco BMW.

He only competed in the Superstock race at the Ulster Grand Prix earlier this month and although Dunlop is still experiencing a great degree of discomfort, the Ulster rider said he wanted to make the trip over for the Classic TT to ride Steve Wheatman’s Team Classic Suzuki XR69 in Monday’s RST Superbike race.

Bruce Anstey topped the Lightweight Classic TT times on the Milenco by Padgett's Honda RS250. Picture: Dave Kneen/Pacemaker Press.

Bruce Anstey topped the Lightweight Classic TT times on the Milenco by Padgett's Honda RS250. Picture: Dave Kneen/Pacemaker Press.

Dunlop, who has won the feature race three times in 2013, 2015 and 2016, was third fastest overall behind Silicone Engineering Kawasaki rider Dean Harrison (124.56mph) and Dubliner Derek Sheils, who impressed with a speed of 124.03mph on his second lap in the evening session on the Greenall Racing Kawasaki ZXR750.

Harrison, though, was reported to have hit his arm on the bank at Laurelbank in the Lightweight session on the LayLaw Yamaha and did not complete any laps on Friday evening.

Dunlop said: “I’m back on my feet again and I’m a bit excited for the job.

“I’ve come to ride the big XR69 and it’s going to be a challenge. Steve (Wheatman) is a great fella and I wanted to try my best to come here and ride the bike for him because he’s a nice bloke and he builds a fantastic motorbike.

“He’s been good to me and he told me not to come, but I’ve come here for Steve and we’ll give it a go.”

Reflecting on his standing start lap of more than 123mph, he added: “It was steady. One lap will do me tonight and I struggled a bit with my wrist and arm.

“The bike was faultless but after half a lap I started to feel it. I can’t be as aggressive with the bike as I need to but we’ll keep at it.”

Horst Saiger was fourth quickest at 123.20mph on the second of the Greenall Kawasaki machines followed by Phil Crowe (Team Classic Suzuki) and Ryan Kneen (Herheim Racing Kawasaki).

The returning Bruce Anstey bettered his time from Monday on the Milenco by Padgett’s Honda RS250 with a speed of 117.29mph on Friday evening.

Anstey, making his return to the Mountain Course after missing the past two seasons through illness, topped the Lightweight Classic TT leaderboard from Harrison on the LayLaw Yamaha TZ250 (115.87mph) with James Hind third fastest at 113.54mph on the Bass Tyre Services Yamaha.

Last year’s winner Lee Johnston was struggling with his Binch Racing Yamaha, setting his fastest speed in the evening at 108.46mph.

Johnston said: “We just can’t seem to get the bike to run and I don’t know what it is. Maybe I’ve used up all my good luck this year because it’s been a bit of a nightmare so far at the Classic TT.”

The Dunlop Lightweight race is scheduled for a 3pm start on Saturday over four laps, when 50-year-old Anstey will line up as the favourite.

The Bennetts Senior Classic race kick-starts the race programme at 11.30am, when John McGuinness will be aiming to make it back to back victories on Roger Winfield’s Paton after sealing the honours in 2018.

McGuinness put down a marker with a standing start lap of 110.13mph to top the times from Italy’s Stefano Bonetti on the Speed Motor Paton, who lapped at 108.94mph.