Harrison and Dunlop set the Pace in Opening Isle of Man TT Session

by Joshua Close
Harrison and Dunlop top opening TT Session

Dean Harrison and Michael Dunlop took control of the opening qualifying session at the 2018 Isle of Man TT, with the latter setting a new unofficial lap record of 120.875mph in the Lightweight Class.

Dunlop topped the Lightweight leaderboard by beating James Hillier’s record of 120.848mph from 2015 on his second lap. As the speed was posted during qualifying, rather than the race, it will not officially replace Hillier’s record. Ivan Lintin (120.660mph) and Derek McGee (117.571mph) rounded out the top three positions.

Harrison took control of the Supersport group on his Silicone Engineering Kawasaki, with a top speed of 125.797mph, ahead of Dunlop on the Honda. Fellow Honda rider Conor Cummins completed the top three with a top speed of 125.152mph.

The first practice session of the TT was led away by the solo newcomers to the Mountain Course – Adam Lyon, David Jackson and Davey Todd. The session had been delayed by five minutes due to oil being cleared between Cronk ny Mona and Signpost.

Cummins was first to complete a lap and he was fastest with a 123.207mph, swiftly followed across the line by Dunlop (122.607mph), Harrison (121.793) and Hillier (121.356mph). Late starter Dan Kneen went into second as he lapped at 122.700mph on the Jackson Racing Honda. Ian Hutchinson would then ease his way  onto the timing sheets with a lap of 118.030mph. Elsewhere, Gary Johnson was out of luck and stopped at Crosby Crossroads.

At this point Lintin was controlling the Lightweight Class with a 118.196mph lap, followed by David Johnson (115.253mph), Michael Rutter (114.684), Ian Lougher (114.394mph) and McGee (113.919mph). Joey Thompson was an early retirement at Ballacraine.

Back in the Supersport class, Cummins upped the pace to an impressive 125.152mph on his second lap, with Harrison moving up to second on the time sheets at 124.587mph. He was closely followed by Peter Hickman (124.313mph) and Kneen (124.319mph), with Hutchinson upping his speed slightly to 119.734mph.

Meanwhile, in the Lightweights David Johnson improved to 117.029mph with team-mate McGee going equally well at 117.571mph and Italian Stefano Bonetti just behind on 117.119mph. Johnson’s woes continued as, having made it back to the paddock, he stopped at Quarter Bridge.

At the head of the field Hillier improved his speed to 122.769mph on his third lap but Dunlop went quicker at 123.715mph, whilst Lintin (121.918) and William Dunlop (121.249) were also improving.

However, it was Harrison who was making all the headlines on his fourth lap as he flashed across the line at 125.797mph to go to the top of the leaderboard, although Dunlop was only half a second slower at 125.741mph.

Lintin was also flying having gone back out on his Lightweight machine and his lap of 119.908mph put him some 23 seconds clear of second-placed McGee. The Southern Irishman was eventually bumped back down to third though as Dunlop lapped at 118.952mph on the Paton.

Lintin would improve again in the at 120.660mph, only for Dunlop to go quicker still with a 120.875mph lap, which was just inside Hillier’s three-year lap record.

Monday’s schedule begins with the first appearance of the Superbike and Superstock machines at 18.20, with Supersport and Newcomers except Lightweight also part of the session. At 19.25 it will be the turn of the Supersport, Lightweight and Newcomers all classes, before the sidecars open their qualifying programme at 20.00.

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