Honda’s John McGuinness says Michael Dunlop’s decision to ditch Yamaha for BMW at the Isle of Man TT was “the right one for him”.
Dunlop’s dramatic split from Shaun Muir’s Milwaukee Yamaha team halfway through practice week on Thursday dominated the lion’s share of the headlines, while Ian Hutchinson set the first 130mph Superbike lap of 2015 to top the timesheets on the PBM Kawasaki.
Ulsterman Dunlop, who took his TT tally to 11 wins last year with his second successive four-timer, dumped the all-new YZF-R1 in favour of a return to the BMW S1000RR machines on which he enjoyed so much success in 2014, clinching a treble in the Superbike, Superstock and Superstock races.
The 26-year-old will ride the Hawk Racing Buildbase BMW Superbike plus his own MD Racing Superstock S1000RR and a Honda CBR600RR.
Dunlop’s Superbike arrived on the Isle of Man on Thursday night but he missed out on the chance to ride the bike in practice, instead completing three laps on his Superstock machine and immediately throwing his hat into the ring with a sizzling lap of 129.659mph to clock the fourth fastest lap of practice so far.
McGuinness, who was second fastest on the Honda Racing Fireblade with a lap of 130.030mph as he finished 1.8 seconds behind Hutchinson, said: “I think it’s the right decision for Michael – at the TT you have to feel confident in yourself and you have to feel confident in the bike and everything around you and no disrespect to the Milwaukee team, but it wasn’t working for him.
“It was a brave decision to do it but it was the only option for him and I respect Michael for that and hopefully Yamaha can come back in the future; it looks like it needs a bit more development.
“Dean’s [Harrison] carrying on [with the R1] but Michael’s a winning machine and he wants to win, but he feels he can’t win [on the Yamaha] so it’s the right decision for him,” McGuinness told Manx radio.
Dunlop issued a statement saying he was “genuinely sorry” after pulling the plug on his brief association with Milwaukee Yamaha.
“I would like to thank Milwaukee Yamaha for their support in bringing me into their team and I am genuinely sorry to be making this decision,” he said.
“Unfortunately I don’t think there is enough time left with the sessions we’ve already lost at the TT to be truly competitive and get the bike to the level we need to in order to win races here.”
A statement issued by Milwaukee Yamaha said the team had ‘all the ingredients for success’ at the TT.
“Milwaukee Yamaha has today (Thursday), released Michael Dunlop from his contract with immediate effect.
“Despite having all the ingredients for TT success – rider, bike and team, Michael has taken the decision not to continue with the programme and for that reason we have released him from his contract.”
Hutchinson maintained his excellent form to head the times on the ZX-10R Superbike with a speed of 130.266mph from McGuinness, with Wednesday’s pacesetter Bruce Anstey improving to 129.957mph on the Valvoline Padgetts Honda.
Dunlop – clear at the top of the Superstock timesheets – was followed by Tyco BMW pair William Dunlop and Guy Martin, who lapped at 129.419mph and 128.963mph respectively.
Bradford’s Dean Harrison, who is spearheading the charge for Northern Ireland team Mar-Train Racing on the new YZF-R1, lapped at 127.120mph as he slotted into 12th place on the overall leaderboard.
Michael Rutter was seventh fastest on the Penz13.com Bathams BMW at 128.529mph ahead of Manxman Conor Cummins on the second of the official Honda machines (128.331mph).
Jamie Hamilton showed excellent pace on John Burrows’ Suzuki with a speed of 127.752mph to go ninth quickest, while the top ten was rounded out by Aussie David Johnson.
Hutchinson was second fastest in the Superstock class behind Dunlop with a speed of 128.308mph and was followed by Aussie David Johnson (127.470mph) and James Hillier on the Quattro Kawasaki at 127.127mph.
Anstey lapped at 127.045mph with Lee Johnston completing the top six at 126.759mph.
Gary Johnson was fastest in the Supersport class on the Mar-Train Yamaha at 124.307mph from Anstey (124.051mph) and William Dunlop on the CD/IC Racing Yamaha (123.708mph).