Michael Dunlop ramped up anticipation ahead of race week for the 2023 Isle of Man TT by upsetting bookies' favourite Peter Hickman to both top the leaderboard at the end of qualifying practice and set a new lap record of The Mountain Course.
Coming on the fifth and final day of qualifying practice this week, Dunlop saved his best for last as he tucked in for a scintillating new benchmark of 135.531mph, comfortably exceeding the erstwhile best of 135.452mph achieved by Hickman in 2018.
Indeed, while most eyes were on pre-race favourite Hickman to see whether he could raise the benchmark on the Monster Energy FHO BMW M 1000 RR, it was instead Dunlop who stole the show on his Hawk Racing Honda CBR1000RR-R.
Already a 21-time winner at the TT, though Dunlop can never be discounted in any class, success has been focused on the Supersport and Supertwins classes in recent editions.
However, a switch of machinery from Suzuki to Honda has seen Dunlop raise his game, with the Ulsterman capitalising on a week of excellent weather conditions on the Manx Island to break the five-year old record.
Even so, while he may court the headlines on Friday evening, it is this week's ten races - of which Dunlop will start eight - where performance matters.
With that in mind, Dunlop has a fight on his hands to turn his pace into the consistency needed over the four laps of the Superbike TT (Sunday 4 June) and the six laps of the Senior TT (Saturday 13 June).
Indeed, Hickman himself wasn't far off his personal best as he ended the week just shy of 135mph, his best a 134.910mph, while Dean Harrison makes it very much a closely-matched three-way fight at the top on the DAO Kawasaki ZX-10RR after posting a 134.216mph.
While the top three has been well defined throughout the week, a big push by Davey Todd in the latter stages saw him climb onto the fringes of the overall fight with a new best of 132.194mph on the Milenco by Padgetts Honda CBR1000RR-R.
23-time TT winner John McGuinness also enjoyed a strong final day of practice to loom inside the top five on his factory Honda, the road racing legend keeping the impressive Jamie Coward (KTS Honda) at bay. Conor Cummins (Milenco by Padgetts Honda) was the last of the seven riders to crack 130mph, but missed the latter stages of the week due to ill health.
Josh Brookes ended his week in eighth as he tickled the magic 130mph mark on the Monster Energy FHO BMW M 1000 RR, the Aussie hitting 129.833mph, while Rob Hodson (SMT Racing) and David Johnson (C&L Fairburn Jackson) made it seven Fireblades inside the top ten.
|2023 Isle of Man TT - Superbike Classification after Qualifying 5 [Friday 2-6-23]|
|1||Michael Dunlop||Hawk Racing||Honda CBR1000RR-R||135.531|
|2||Peter Hickman||Monster Energy FHO Racing||BMW M 1000 RR||134.910|
|3||Dean Harrison||DAO Racing||Kawasaki ZX-10RR||134.216|
|4||Davey Todd||Milenco by Padgetts||Honda CBR1000RR-R||132.194|
|5||John McGuinness||Honda Racing UK||Honda CBR1000RR-R||131.003|
|6||Jamie Coward||KTS Racing Steadplan||Honda CBR1000RR-R||130.945|
|7||Conor Cummins||Milenco by Padgetts||Honda CBR1000RR-R||130.924|
|8||Josh Brookes||Monster Energy FHO Racing||BMW M 1000 RR||129.833|
|9||Rob Hodson||SMT Racing||Honda CBR1000RR-R||129.279|
|10||David Johnson||C&L Fairburn Jackson||Honda CBR1000RR-R||129.243|
|11||James Hillier||OMG Racing||Yamaha R1M||129.210|
|12||Michael Rutter||Bathams Racing||Honda CBR1000RR-R||129.145|
|13||Phillip Crowe||Appleyard Agriwash||Honda CBR1000RR-R||128.822|
|14||Shaun Anderson||Team Classic Suzuki||Suzuki GSX-R1000R||128.331|
|15||Dominic Herbertson||Apero||BMW S 1000 RR||128.280|