The 2017 Isle of Man TT races came to a conclusion just before 7pm last Friday evening and it was undoubtedly one of the toughest fortnights in recent times as weather conditions continually played havoc with the schedule. Race organisers, including Clerk of the Course Gary Thompson, did a great job in keeping the show moving and with torrential rain falling at regular intervals, it’s perhaps a miracle that only one race was lost.
The weather meant that we failed to see the record-breaking feats of 2016 although Ian Hutchinson and Michael Dunlop, the heroes of twelve months ago, still shared four out of the five solo race wins between them. Their weeks ended in dramatic fashion, albeit for different reasons, as Dunlop took the all-new GSX-R Suzuki to victory in the Senior race whilst Hutchinson suffered a broken femur after a nasty crash at the 27th Milestone.
Hickman comes to the forefront:
The fine line between success and failure and triumph and tragedy was again highlighted during the course of the fortnight on the island but one man who excelled was Peter Hickman, Ever since he became the fastest newcomer ever to have lapped the Mountain Course in 2014, the Burton-on-Trent rider has been earmarked for TT greatness and whilst he may not have reached that level just yet, he was certainly the man of the week.
He arrived at this year’s TT as the fourth fastest rider in history although he’d yet to stand on the podium but he put that statistic to bed in the opening race as he finished second to Hutchinson in the six-lap Superbike race. And he went on to finish on the podium in all five of the solo races, the only rider at TT2017 to achieve such a feat.
Finishing on the podium in the Superbike, Superstock, Senior and Lightweight classes showed his versatility and although he didn’t quite manage to take the race win he wanted, it’s only a matter of time before he does. A TT star was undoubtedly born in 2017.
Dunlop and Hutchinson win – again:
Twelve months ago, the TT was all about the battles between Dunlop and Hutchinson with the week dominated by thrilling racing, record-breaking speeds, animosity and controversy but we didn’t quite see the two go head to head this time around.
Dunlop set a superb pace in the opening Superbike race but we were denied a straight race between the two when the Northern Irishman was an early retirement allowing Hutchinson to take the win. And with Dunlop having spent very little time on his Superstock Suzuki, the Tyco BMW of Hutchinson swept to another TT victory having seen off the challenge of Hickman.
The mixed conditions of the Supersport race went the way of Dunlop and that just left the Senior race to decide who would walk away with the bragging rights.
The race saw Dunlop struggle with rear suspension issues and the first one and a half laps were nothing short of epic as Hickman and Hutchinson went toe to toe on their similar BMWs. The gaps between the two at each commentary point were negligible – 0.08s in Hutchinson’s favour at Glen Helen and 0.18s in Hickman’s at Ramsey – as they matched each other mile for mile but then came the news everyone dreads – Hutchinson was missing at the Bungalow.
The race was subsequently red flagged and everyone held their breath until the news came through that although he’d crashed, the Yorkshire rider was conscious. Unfortunately, he suffered a broken femur and further damage to the left leg that saw him endure 30 operations between 2010 and 2014 so it looks like he’ll have some tough months ahead of him before he can add to his 16 TT wins.
The red flag did Dunlop a favour as he was able to make changes to his suspension and in the restart he never looked back. The 28-year old was never headed and a near 133mph lap was a remarkable feat given his lack of time on the bike, both before and during the TT.
It gave him his 15th TT win, sending him one clear of the legendary Mike Hailwood, and with age on his side, and Hutchinson and John McGuinness having to battle back from injury, more wins will surely come his way. But he’ll certainly have a close eye on Hickman in 2018.
The Mountain bites:
The triumphs at the TT often have tragedies lurking behind them, bringing out calls from various quarters for the racing to be ended, but the fact remains every competitor goes to the TT a) because they love doing it and b) knowing the risks.
Of course, that doesn’t make the loss of a rider any easier to deal with and the fact that three riders paid the ultimate price for pursuing their dreams in 2017 overshadowed the feats of those who won races and stood on the podium.
Davey Lambert, Jochem van den Hoek and Alan Bonner were the three riders to sadly lose their lives at TT2017 with all three being highly respected and accomplished riders. Alan was a close friend to the Devitt family having been part of the Devitt RC Express Racing team during 2016 before moving onto pastures new.
The highs at the TT are always high – just witness the battle between Hickman and Hutchinson in the early stages of the Senior race – but the lows are even lower. Words will never help ease the loss of a fallen rider but, hopefully, they give comfort and show how everyone appreciated what they did in one of the toughest, most dangerous sports in the world.
Everyone at Devitt wishes to convey their deepest sympathy to the friends and family of Alan, Jochem and Davey. May they rest in peace.
Were you paying attention to the action of the TT this year? Why not take our quiz to find out…
Having started watching motorcycle races all over the world form childhood, Phil Wain has been a freelance motorcycle journalist for 15 years and is features writer for a number of publications including BikeSport News and Classic Racer, having also been a regular contributor to MCN and MCN Sport. He is PR officer for a number of teams and riders at both the British Superbike Championship and International road races, including Smiths Triumph, Quattro Plant Kawasaki, John McGuinness, Ryan Farquhar and Keith Amor. He is also heavily involved with the Isle of Man TT Races, writing official press releases and race reports as well as providing ITV4 with statistical information.