It was another great year for real road racing, especially on the international scene where the outright lap records were broken at the Isle of Man TT, North West 200 and Ulster Grand Prix, but also in Ireland and at the Southern 100 and Scarborough too.
Ian Hutchinson and Michael Dunlop were the undoubted star performers at the Internationals taking numerous race wins, podiums and lap records whilst Dean Harrison and Derek Sheils stood out at Scarborough and Ireland respectively. The racing was closer than it had ever been with a huge supporting cast that again included the likes of John McGuinness, Peter Hickman, Michael Rutter, James Hillier and Bruce Anstey.
Seeley shines at the North West:
The International season again got underway in May at the North West 200 with Alastair Seeley coming into this year’s meeting tied with the late, great Robert Dunlop on 15 race wins and although the schedule at this year’s event was again interrupted, the Carrickfergus rider promptly took his 16th and 17th race wins to go clear at the top of the all-time winner’s list.
It was Michael Dunlop who took the feature Superbike race though and with it a new outright lap record of 123.207mph. He’d been expected to go toe to toe with both Seeley and Hutchinson but he comfortably took the race win after Seeley lost his brakes going into University.
Hutchinson came through for second ahead of the evergreen Rutter but had his moment of glory in the Superstock race where he got the verdict ahead of Hickman and Seeley. In the Supertwins class, Ivan Lintin took both race wins although these were overshadowed by the tragic death of rising star Malachi Mitchell-Thomas and the serious injuries sustained by Ryan Farquhar.
Dunlop and Hutchinson dominate TT:
The North West 200 results predicted that the Isle of Man TT would be the Michael Dunlop and Ian Hutchinson show and so it proved. The intense rivalry between the two, which was in danger of spilling over at times, spurred each other to great and previously unscaled heights as they ripped up the Mountain Course record books.
Practice week saw the duo seemingly try to out-do the other each time they went out on to the 37 and ¾-mile course but in the Superbike and Senior races, Dunlop was the dominant force. He shattered the outright lap record in the first race of the week, the Superbike, recording the first ever 133mph lap, but went quicker still in the closing Senior with a stunning lap of 133.962mph sending him clear of the chasing Hutchinson and John McGuinness.
Hutchinson took second on both occasions but took a record-breaking win in the Superstock race and then took both Supersport wins whilst Lintin’s dominance of the Supertwin class continued with another hard fought win over Hillier in the Lightweight race. Hillier and Dean Harrison impressed in all of their races taking three podiums each.
The sidecar race wins were shared between Ben and Tom Birchall and John Holden/Andy Winkle but although the former set a new outright lap record, it was the latter who claimed overall victory with first and second place finishes.
Hutchinson lights up the Ulster:
At the Ulster Grand Prix it was Tyco BMW’s Hutchinson who dominated, winning four races as well as claiming a new outright lap record of 134.089mph, cementing the Dundrod circuit as the fastest race circuit in the world currently in use.
In what was dubbed part three of the Hutchinson v Dunlop battle, the Bingley Bulet outshone his Northern Ireland rival in all of the races and although Dunlop got on the podium, the likes of Anstey and Hickman pushed him all the way. Kiwi Anstey was back to full fitness after crashes at both the North West 200 and TT, and he was finally able to show just what the Padgetts Honda RC-213V replica GP machine was capable of.
Hickman makes it two in a row at Macau:
Much was expected of Hickman in 2016 but reliability issues and bad luck, especially at the TT, with the GB Moto Kawasaki meant he had to contend himself with podiums rather than race wins. He became the fourth fastest rider ever at the TT to further show his credentials but his moment came at the season-ending Macau GP where he took victory for a second year running.
Riding the Bathams/SMT Racing BMW on this occasion, Hickman was part of a thrilling, race-long battle with team-mate Rutter, Martin Jessopp and circuit newcomer Glenn Irwin but he was ahead when it mattered most with Rutter giving Robin Croft’s team a great 1-2. Jessopp, who had again claimed pole position, had to settle for a podium finish once more.
Harrison and Sheils dominate domestic scene:
On the domestic front, it was Dean Harrison and Derek Sheils who impressed the most with Harrison dominating the four meetings at Oliver’s Mount, Scarborough. He took 24 wins in total at the venue, including the Gold Cup and Cock o’ the North trophies, whilst Sheils was crowned Irish Roads Superbike Champion for the second time.
Dunlop, meanwhile, dominated the Southern 100 taking all four Superbike race wins including the feature Solo Championship for the third time.
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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.