Michael Dunlop laid down a huge marker on the opening day of the 2023 Isle of Man TT by topping practice for all four solo classes.
Northern Irishman Dunlop kicked off the fortnight of action in the best possible way, as he goes into this year’s event with a realistic chance of not just moving into second place in the all-time TT winners’ list but even of overhauling his uncle Joey to become the most successful of all time.
Glorious sunshine made for ideal conditions for Monday’s six practice sessions, with supersport and supertwins, superbikes and superstocks, and sidecars all getting two sessions each and giving the top contenders time to complete as many as 10 laps of the 37.73-mile long circuit.
The first session of each class went untimed as riders got their first taste of the Snaefell Mountain Circuit in 2023 – but, with the stopwatches counting for the afternoon’s second batch of three sessions, it was Dunlop who was able to capitalise on his course knowledge to end up not just fastest but utterly dominant.
Heading out first on his supertwin machine, a class in which he is the current lap record holder, Dunlop didn’t just top the session but managed to go fractionally faster than his existing best time from 2018 on his first timed lap of 2023 and from a standing start out of the pitlane.
Heading back out in the same session on his MD Racing Yamaha R6, he also topped that class too, before repeating the feat in both superstock and superbike classes with a fastest outright lap of 131.782mph. That was still nearly 30 seconds off Peter Hickman’s record pace from 2018 but was nonetheless an impressive time for the opening day of action.
With both the superstock and supertwin classes each gaining a race this year as part of the expanded TT calendar, it means that Dunlop now has a record eight races in which to try and take victory, and, sitting two race wins behind John McGuinness and five behind his uncle Joey Dunlop in the all-time standings, could well mean that the 2023 TT is yet another history-making event for the Dunlop dynasty.
Behind Dunlop, it was the usual suspects featuring at the top of the timesheets with both Hickman and 2020 Senior TT winner Dean Harrison not far behind him. Hickman came home second in the supersport class, two seconds down on Dunlop, and third in superbike, while Harrison (pictured above) took the reverse positions in those sessions.
In the sidecar class, it wasn’t the dominant Birchall brothers pairing of Tom and Ben who ended up on top of the time sheets but rather that of their main competitors, Peter Founds and Jevan Walmsley. They just pipped the Birchalls by less than three seconds after their own two sessions of practice.