TT 2015: Ian Hutchinson in mix for dream return to Superbike pinnacle

Michael Dunlop finally rode the Hawk Racing Buildbase BMW during Isle of Man TT practice on Friday following his split from the Milwaukee Yamaha team
Michael Dunlop finally rode the Hawk Racing Buildbase BMW during Isle of Man TT practice on Friday following his split from the Milwaukee Yamaha team

PBM Kawasaki’s Ian Hutchinson has the honour of topping the premier class practice times ahead of Sunday’s rescheduled RST Superbike race at the Isle of Man TT.

The race was postponed by a day due to the threat of high winds on the Mountain Course on Saturday, with gusts of between 55-60mph expected.

A revamped programme includes the first Sure Sidecar Race at 2pm on Saturday afternoon, although additional untimed practice for the Superbike, Superstock, Supersport and Lightweight machines will also be held, getting under way on Saturday morning at 10.40am.

This will be followed by a practice session for the Lightweight and Supersport competitors from 11.50am.

The RST Parade Lap will now take place from 12.50pm ahead of the Sidecar race, while a qualifying session for the SES TT Zero Race will be held from 3.20pm.

Qualifying went ahead on Friday night as planned on the legendary 37.73-mile circuit, with Michael Dunlop completing his first laps on the Hawk Racing Buildbase BMW following his dramatic exit from the Milwaukee Yamaha team.

The 26-year-old set the second fastest time at 128.636mph on his second lap behind Kiwi Bruce Anstey on the Valvoline Padgetts Honda, who clocked 129.394mph.

Guy Martin was third quickest on the Tyco BMW at 127.861mph ahead of team-mate William Dunlop (126.907mph), although Yorkshireman Hutchinson was credited with the fastest time of practice week, recording a sizzling lap of 130.266mph in better conditions on Thursday to head John McGuinness on the Honda Racing Fireblade, who lapped at 130.030mph.

Anstey’s lap from Thursday put him third fastest on the combined times at 129.957mph ahead of William Dunlop (129.419mph) and Martin (128.963mph).

An intriguing battle is in prospect on Sunday, with Dunlop aiming to overcome a lack of preparation with the BMW to retain his Superbike crown from 2014, while 21-times winner McGuinness is back to his best after struggling last year with a wrist injury.

Hutchinson, though, would also appear to hold a live chance on Paul Bird’s Kawasaki given his consistently fast laps during practice, while New Zealander Anstey is an obvious candidate for the top step, proving his blistering speed on Clive Padgett’s Honda a year ago with a new outright lap record at 132mph.

William Dunlop and Guy Martin will be aiming to make their presence felt for Northern Ireland’s TAS Racing team on the Tyco BMW Motorrad machines, while Gary Johnson on the factory-supported GBmoto Kawasaki could also be right in the mix for his maiden Superbike victory on the Mountain Course.

Dean Harrison set the pace in the Superstock class on Friday on the Mar-Train Yamaha at 126.059mph, but Michael Dunlop’s 129.659mph lap on Thursday on the MD Racing BMW topped the combined times from Hutchinson (128.308mph) and David Johnson on the Smiths Racing BMW (127.470mph).

In the Supersport class, Hutchinson was quickest on the TCC Yamaha with a speed of 124.927mph, which put the Bingley man into second place overall on the practice leaderboard behind Anstey, whose lap on Wednesday at 125.218mph sets the benchmark.

McGuinness on the Jackson Racing Honda was third fastest overall (124.480mph).

Ryan Farquhar remains the fastest Lightweight competitor following his lap on Thursday at 117.432mph on the SGS/KMR Kawasaki.