Australian David Johnson won a dramatic Superbike Classic TT race on Monday evening, his first victory around the Mountain Course, after race leader Michael Dunlop retired at Hillberry on the final lap with a flat battery.
The duo had been locked in battle for the majority of the race but Dunlop looked like he had the race won on the Team Classic Suzuki when he led by more than ten seconds at the Bungalow for the fourth and final time.
However, it wasn’t to be and Johnson got the victory on the Alasdair Cowan Racing/Robert Burns Kawasaki by 41.2s from Derek Sheils (Greenall Racing Kawasaki) and James Hillier (Oxford Products Ducati).
Dunlop led Johnson at Glen Helen on the first lap by 1.67s with Gary Johnson in third, just over two seconds down on his namesake, and Paul Jordan, Conor Cummins and Sheils completing the top six as only eight seconds covered the top ten.
Johnson took half a second out of Dunlop on the run to Ballaugh but the gap was back up to two seconds at Ramsey Hairpin and Cummins moved up to third with Sheils, Hillier and Jamie Coward all inside the top six as Gary Johnson slipped back to seventh.
At the end of the lap, it was Dunlop in the lead after lapping at 124.868mph but the gap to Johnson was still only 1.9s as Cummins remained in third, now 9.9s adrift. He’d edged away from Sheils by 2.3s with Hillier only a second behind the Irishman. Coward remained in sixth with the top 11 riders having all lapped at more than 120mph although Horst Saiger wasn’t one of them, the Austrian having gone out at Governor’s Bridge.
Through Glen Helen on lap two and Dunlop doubled his lead to 3.9s with the gap between Johnson and Cummins remaining just under ten seconds. Sheils lost another second to the Manxman but he, in turn, had extended his advantage over Hillier with Coward now only a tenth of a second ahead of seventh placed Michael Rutter.
Leading on the road, Dunlop was beginning to take control of the race and by Ramsey Hairpin, his lead had gone out again, the margin to Johnson now looking ominous at 8.1s. Cummins and Sheils were still in third and fourth but only three seconds covered Rutter, Coward and Hillier in fifth to seventh.
As the riders came into the pits for fuel at the end of the lap, Dunlop’s speed of 125.63mph meant he now enjoyed a lead of 8.8s over Johnson but Rutter was glued to Dunlop’s rear wheel and, with the fastest lap of the race that allowed him to overhaul Cummins and take over third. Sheils and Coward were in fifth and sixth with Hillier in seventh but Gary Johnson and Jordan were both forced to retire.
Johnson had a quicker pit stop than Dunlop and at Glen Helen on lap three he led for the first time albeit by the slender margin of 1.7s. There was also considerable change behind as Sheils jumped up third, half a second ahead of Rutter with Coward and Hillier now in fifth and sixth as Cummins dropped down to seventh.
Dunlop brought the gap down to less than half a second at Ballaugh and at Ramsey he’d regained the lead, a great run in the sector seeing him go 3.7s clear. Sheils was continuing to hold onto third and he now had a five second lead over Coward as Rutter stopped at Gwen’s to make adjustments.
Heading into the fourth and final lap, Dunlop had built up a lead of 4.8s over Johnson and although Sheils was still holding onto third by five seconds, Hillier was up to fourth and 2.6s ahead of Coward with Cummins a further 2.3s back in sixth.
On the last nine-mile run to Glen Helen, Dunlop added another two seconds to his lead over Johnson and by Ballaugh it had increased further to almost ten seconds. The battle for third remained close though and as the riders jumped Ballaugh Bridge, Hillier, circulating with Johnson on the road, had moved into third but it was extremely tight, the difference between him and Sheils only two tenths of a second. Coward was out of luck though as he retired at the Cronk y Voddy straight.
However, just when it looked like Dunlop would take his fourth race win in the class he went out at Hillberry and Johnson came through for his maiden victory with Sheils making his first appearance on a TT rostrum as he got the better of Hillier by just one and a half seconds, the latter taking his first Classic TT podium since 2014.
Cummins took fourth and the late retirements allowed Ryan Kneen and Michael Sweeney to move up to fifth and sixth respectively. Rob Hodson, Davey Todd, Craig Neve and Michal Dokoupil rounded out the top ten.