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First fast the post | Hickman vs Dunlop vs Harrison - TT Race Week Preview

When it comes to the Isle of Man TT, competitors are best advised to leave egos behind on the mainland.

It is an event that demands respect on every square inch of its snaking 37.7-mile route… and by inch, it really does mean down to the inch. Watching this foolhardy troupe graze hedges, startle wildlife and sand down the odd stone wall with pin-point accuracy borne from years of honing those 130mph-plus laps will leave you both awe-struck and struck by the notion that road racers must be built entirely differently to us mere mortals.

Indeed, the TT is not for the faint-hearted, but over the years the event has swelled from its grassroots, have-a-go-hero amateur heyday into a big-bucks, professional demonstration of motorcycle racing at its wildest.


So while previous editions of the event have generally resulted in a fairly organised hierarchy, more contemporary TTs have brought the quality to the fore… which brings us to the 2023 TT, arguably the hardest to predict in years.

Indeed, if the cream always rises to the top, then Peter Hickman, Michael Dunlop and Dean Harrison have whipped this year’s TT into a tantalising treat to whet any two-wheel fanatic’s appetite.

With five qualifying practice days behind us and a week of racing ahead, road racing’s top tier trio arrive in peak form with very little to choose between them, not just in the Superbike/Senior TT class, but Supersport and Superstock too.

Seven days ago, the smart money was - and perhaps still is - on Hickman, in a Superbike/Superstock context at least.

Three wins on the FHO Racing BMW M 1000 RR played to form, Hickman putting the agony of failing to finish the 2019 Senior TT while leading behind him to dominate on his well-proven machine. More than that though, Hickman made it look so easy, it was wild, throwing up showboating high-speed wheelies… not to mention a middle finger up to the TT’s notorious reputation.

Indeed, the secret of Hickman’s belated success on the roads is explained by his taciturn opinion of it - “It’s just another bit of Tarmac” - and it has served him well to date. However, his preparations this year have been interrupted, first by a mixed start to his BSB campaign that has seen him overshadowed by new team-mate Josh Brookes, being excluded from the NW200 and the odd technical gremlin.

It’s a ripple in his momentum that has given the sniff of a potential upset to Harrison and especially Dunlop.

While Dunlop’s pace in the Supersport and Supertwins categories isn’t in question, the switch to Honda machinery for his Superbike and Superstock campaigns has invigorated him. Focused, hungry and determined, Dunlop’s lineage may spur him on as much as it weighs him down, but his tremendous new lap record of 135.531mph on Friday was a statement of intent if ever there was one.

Can he sustain it over four and six laps? Hickman’s metronomic consistency could negate Dunlop’s performance edge… either way, it’s unlikely Hicky will be popping a fast one this time.


Of course, this is no head-to-head either and it is credit to Harrison for arguably making the most notable step forward of the trio to be very much in the hunt this year on the DAO Racing Kawasaki ZX-10RR.

Previewed by his competitive outings in BSB, Harrison is clearly determined to prove he doesn’t need mechanical (mis)fortune to strike his rival to reign supreme and he has never lapped faster or more consistently than he has in the run up to race week.

In fact, all three go into battle with something to fight for - for Hickman it’s the satisfaction of retaining his spot on the TT’s hallowed throne, for Dunlop it’s for a legacy that will be forever etched in TT history and for Harrison it’s the chance to prove there is no such thing as luck in road racing.

Either way, all three head into six races - Superbike, Supersport and Superstock - remarkably evenly-matched, with no clear trend on who will emerge victorious once they blast down Bray Hill.


Let battle commence…

>>>CLICK HERE for the full 2023 Isle of Man TT Results Classification after Q5<<<

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