Isle of Man outright lap record holder Peter Hickman was back at the top of the timesheets in Wednesday’s qualifying session courtesy of a 131.957mph lap on the Gas Monkey Garage BMW.
But the Louth rider was kept honest by Dean Harrison as the DAO Kawasaki man ended only two seconds down on his rival with Davey Todd in third.
The Superbike/Superstock/Supersport session commenced and, in a change of tack, it was Peter Hickman (Gas Monkey Garage by FHO Racing) who was first away with James Hillier (RICH Energy OMG Racing), Dean Harrison (DAO Racing Kawasaki), Michael Rutter (Bathams Ales) and Jamie Coward (KTS Racing powered by Steadplan) next to go.
There was little to choose between Hickman and Harrison from the start to the finish, never more than a few tenths of a second separating them, but at the completion of the lap, it was Hickman who was the quickest at 131.293mph. It was close though with Harrison just 0.8s adrift with a speed of 131.181mph. Davey Todd was third and the last rider above 130mph with 130.768mph with Michael Dunlop (128.797mph) and Coward (128.19mph) completing the top six.
Hickman pitted to make changes to the BMW but Harrison pressed on and went back to the top of the leaderboard with a second lap of 131.713mph. Conor Cummins increased his pace to 130.174mph with fellow Honda man John McGuinness MBE also improving to 129.117mph. Dunlop was sandwiched in between at 129.391mph. That pushed Coward back to seventh ahead of Hillier, Phil Crowe and Nathan Harrison.
However, Hickman’s changes clearly worked and he flashed across the line at 131.957mph to go almost two seconds quicker than Harrison’s earlier time. Further back, Shaun Anderson (125.556mph) and Rob Hodson (124.388mph) both improved their speeds second time around as did former Senior Manx GP winner Matt Stevenson, the Yorkshireman going quicker than ever before at 123.341mph. German rider, David Datzer was another on the move with a new personal best of 123.014mph.
In the Superstock class, Nathan Harrison (126.368mph) was leading the way from Ian Hutchinson (126.032mph) and Craig Neve (125.87mph) with newcomer Glenn Irwin in fifth at 125.447mph, another best for the Honda Racing UK runner.
Many of the leading contenders switched to their Supersport machines for their third laps although Paul Jordan (124.041mph), Lee Johnston (123.134mph) and James Hind (122.545mph) had already got a lap under their belts as had newcomers Joe Loughlin (119.571mph), Jamie Cringle (115.09mph) and Rennie Scaysbrook (114.563mph). Michael Sweeney (118.774mph) was also back on track after his off on Monday at the 11th Milestone.
The Sidecars had got proceedings underway with a single lap session at 6.31pm with the Birchalls setting off first on their Haith Honda. John Holden, with Dan Sayle replacing Jason Pitt in the chair, Tim Reeves/Kevin Rousseau, Dave Molyneux/Daryl Gibson, Pete Founds/Jevan Walmsley and Ryan and Callum Crowe followed them away in quick succession.
Holden/Sayle were soon reported as having stopped at Ballacraine whilst Reeves/Rousseau did the same but a bit further round the course at Parliament Square. Both got going again after making adjustments but the Birchalls were having no such issues and they duly completed the lap quickest at 116.825mph, the fastest lap of the week so far.
Founds/Walmsley were next to cross the line at 115.432mph, 14s slower than the Birchalls, and it was the Crowe brothers who slotted into third on the leaderboard with a lap of 114.598mph, their fastest lap ever around the circuit. Gary Bryan/Phil Hyde (110.812mph) were fourth and they were followed by Harry Payne/Mark Wilkes (110.554mph) and Lee Crawford/Scott Hardie (110.545mph), the two newcomer drivers again impressing.
The session ended early with a red flag due to an incident at Ballagarey at approximately 8.05pm, where Mark Purslow, 29, from Llanon, Ceredigion, riding number 70 in the Supersport Class tragically lost his life.