As ever, safety was highest on the agenda which meant both practice week and race week itself were adjusted to make allowance for rain, mist and other traditional meteorological impediments to racing on the 37 ¾ mile mountain circuit. And with entries in all but one of the racing classes the prospects for success were good according to racing coordinator for Kawasaki in the UK, Ross Burridge.
“Our official roads team of Quattro Plant Muc-Off Kawasaki were immaculately turned out as ever thanks to Team Principle, Pete Extance of Bournemouth Kawasaki. James Hillier is familiar with the Ninja ZX-6R and ZX-10R machines the team entered and the ER-6f for the lightweight race is in an advanced state of development on the back of a win at the 2013 event.
We started well with two riders in the top ten results of the first Superbike race on Saturday 31 May with Dean Harrison on his RC Express Racing by MSS Performance ZX-10R in eighth and James Hillier on the Quattro Plant Muc-Off Kawasaki in ninth. Both riders were entered in Wednesday’s Superstock race two and well as Friday’s Senior so it was a good way of finding definitive bike settings in true race conditions”.
An early setback for Kawasaki fans was the non-finish of Manx ace, Dave Molyneux and passenger, Patrick Farrance in the other Monday race, the first sidecar event. Second on lap one, the pair who were predicted to be race winners were in the lead on the second of three laps only to be absent from the timing sheets on lap three due to an electrical fault.
A seventh place for Hillier in Mondays Supersport race was scant reward for his year-long preparation but the New Forest based rider dismissed the disappointment instead focussing on the Superstock race held at lunchtime on the Tuesday.
With three Kawasaki riders in the top ten at race end, Hiller settled for tenth just ahead of Austrian Kawasaki racer, Horst Saiger while a stunning fourth place for David Johnson on the Lloyd and Jones PR Kawasaki Ninja highlighted the Australian’s arrival as a serious TT contender for the future. Highlight of the race for Kawasaki fans though was to be a magnificent second place for Bradford’s Dean Harrison who delivered the RC Express Racing by MSS Performance team their debut TT podium.
Held over from Monday due to poor weather on the island, the race eventually got underway at 1.45pm on Tuesday afternoon in perfect weather conditions and a superb opening lap of 128.768mph placed Dean in a brilliant second place, just over six seconds adrift of Saturday’s Superbike race winner Michael Dunlop.
Despite suffering with a technical issue, Dean’s second lap was quicker still at 128.956mph but Dunlop was able to increase his advantage to almost 14 seconds after setting the fastest lap of the race. However, a good pit stop and strong opening sector on the third lap by Dean brought the margin down to nine seconds with one and a three quarter laps remaining.
Dean had a comfortable margin over third placed rider Bruce Anstey and he completed the four laps and over 150 miles of racing in a brilliant second place, his second podium position around the Mountain Course and the team’s first in just their second year of TT competition.
Dean Harrison commented: “I’m over the moon with second place and just want to say a big thank you to everyone involved with the team. Conditions were great but the quickshifter stopped working on the opening lap and I had to completely change my way of riding, rolling the throttle to change gear when normally you can just change without even thinking. It compromised my race a bit but once I got used to it and settled into a rhythm I was still able to lap at almost 129mph and I can’t ask for much more than second place. I had good pit boards all the way round the course and was surprised by how many people I caught on the roads but I passed them all in clean, safe places and couldn’t have finished second to a better man.”
Ben Constable, Team Co-Owner: “I’m lost for words to be honest and am quite emotional with today’s result! We’ve only been involved for just under two years so to get where we have done in that short space of time is a fantastic achievement by all concerned. Our aim from day one was to get onto the top step of the podium and we continue to get closer to that goal.”
For the second Supersport race on Wednesday, Hillier improved on his first result by two places ending the gruelling four lap race in fifth spot and hungry to do better in 2015 according to Ross Burridge:
“The 600 race is the most open in the whole card to be honest and there are over a dozen riders who can claim the top spot on the podium. James just needs more time on the bike as he has far more track miles under his belt on the ZX-10R and Lightweight ER-6f so far. In this company fifth is a good result and will provide valuable data for the team to improve come next year”.
On Thursday all eyes were trained on the second sidecar event, the only race of the day with Dave Molyneux and passenger, Patrick Farrance back on the grid after days of frenetic adjustment and tuning to their DMR machine’s electrical engine and fuel management systems. The hard work of re-mapping the ECU to suit the unique demands of the TT course paid dividends with the experienced pair well placed in second on laps one and two then rising to the top of the leader board on lap three where they remained until race end.
Now in the enviable position of having won 17 TT races - and doing so using a chassis he designed an built himself - Molyneux claimed the only real issues across the race were a number of animals the sidecar outfit came into contact with.
“We hit two rabbits and a bird during the race. We had some electrical issues as we nearly ran out of fuel and had to re-set the ignition but we are still here”.
For Farrance the jubilation was tangible saying:“The TT circuit is the best thrill anyone could have – to be able to do what we do it’s unbelievable. We had some issues over practice week, to come away today with a win is brilliant”
The final day of TT week is always one to relish yet, equally, a nervous arrival. With only one day “spare” on the Saturday when the Manx Government decree the public roads used for the course can be closed for the final time each year – and countless travel plans already made for the fans – it’s always a day to look up to the heavens according to Ross Burridge.
“The weather plays such a crucial part in TT week. If races get delayed or moved to a new day the pressure builds on the final day and the Senior race. With the lightweight TT also run on the same day everyone had their fingers crossed for Friday and the day thankfully dawned with an optimistic weather situation.
With the definitive machine in the class, it would be a brave person to bet against a Kawasaki win in the morning’s lightweight race but who would end on the three steps of the podium was more of a lottery. As it transpired, the order of the top three on the time sheets at the end of the first lap was sustained across the remainder of the race with James Cowton on the Stuart Smith Racing ER-6f in third, James Hillier in Second and the on-form Dean Harrison the race winner taking his first TT win ever in style.
Dean signalled his intentions from the off and immediately slotted into the lead at Glen Helen on the opening lap, although the gap was only half a second. With fastest man in practice Ivan Lintin retiring early, Dean was under pressure from last year’s race winner James Hillier, but the 25-year old was riding superbly and with an opening lap of 117.897mph, his lead had risen to an impressive 9.7s.
Both riders opted to refuel at the end of the opening lap but Dean continued to extend his lead all the way round the second lap and, going into the third and final 37 3/4 miles, he was in the ideal position of controlling the race. A lap of 118.666mph ensured he came home for a brilliant, debut victory with Hillier some 14s in arrears at the chequered flag.
Dean Harrison: “Ivan had been fastest all week in the Lightweight and I expected him to be pushing hard so my plan was to go as fast as I could right from the off. My first board said ‘P1, +0’ but I just kept plugging away and the gap kept getting bigger and bigger. I felt really comfortable with the pace I was running and had no issues, no slides or anything and the bike was absolutely faultless. To win my first TT is something special and with my Dad having won one of the Sidecar races early in the week, the job’s a dream.”
For the pinnacle of TT week, the Senior race was eagerly anticipated with the crowd wondering if Michael Dunlop could rack up another win or be thwarted by one of perhaps half a dozen riders including Hillier and Harrison.
“There is always a real buzz leading up to the Senior”, commented Ross Burridge. “It’s the biggest race on the card and all riders in the solo classes say it’s the one they would want to win most.”
For Harrison it was pleasure mixed with disappointment – pleasure at his first 130mph average lap but disappointment at having to retire due to mechanical issues.
Dean Harrison said: “I couldn’t have wished for a better start with my first ever 130mph lap. We were looking really good in fifth and everything was going great but, sadly, a mechanical problem brought my race to an early end. It’s a shame race week ended with a DNF but I’m delighted with how the races have gone and the team have been absolutely mint so a big thanks to all the boys for doing such a mega job.”
For Hillier another fifth place meant he was the highest Kawasaki rider in the event and a promise to come back in 2015 with even more determination to succeed.
Summing up the TT for Kawasaki, Race Coordinator, Ross Burridge, was pleased with the strength in depth of Kawasaki competitors and reflected on another year of the mountain course.
“We had six machines in the top twenty at the end of the Senior race, the entire top five in the lightweight and numerous other highlights thanks to Dean Harrison’s marvellous second spot in the Stock 1000 and a momentous win for Dave Molyneux and Patrick Farrance making it 17 TT wins for the Manx stalwart. Of course we don’t take the TT lightly, it’s a demanding course and we pass on our sympathies to the family and friends of Kawasaki rider, Karl Harris, who sadly passed away at this year’s event.
The TT is a unique event of its type and attracts the attentions of riders who relish the challenge of the famous mountain course. Tens of thousands of fans have witnessed a remarkable fortnight of practice and racing and Kawasaki entrants have won two of the races. We look forward to 2015 in the hope that Kawasaki riders will populate even more podium places and that this year’s brace of wins is eclipsed next June”.