It is rare for race week to proceed uninterrupted thanks to the geography of the island which features the famous “mountain” section made famous by its frequent fog and rain and, sure enough, races this year were adjusted to suit the availability of a dry course including rescheduling them for days with predicted better weather.
At the spearhead of Kawasaki’s TT assault was the officially supported DAO Kawasaki Racing team and rider, Dean Harrison. Riding the Ninja ZX-10RR in both Superstock and Superbike specification, Harrison also took to the 37.75 mile (60.75 km) course on his DAO Ninja ZX-6R for the two supersport races.
A “time trial” rather than a traditional race, the complexity of a TT race is engrossing with riders assessed on elapsed time at various intervals around the course and also able to be viewed “on the road” as they physically make up places with skilful slipstreaming and other overtaking manoeuvres.
For the first race of the week on Saturday June 4, Harrison was mounted on the DAO Ninja ZX-10RR and quickly got into his rhythm establishing a strong third place at Glen Helen on lap one. One of his favourite parts of the course, Dean made up time and by Ramsey (the other major town on the island after Douglas) he was second on corrected time and ready to take on the challenge of the mountain section of the course which has its own special demands.
“I did have a drive round the course during practice week in a car but in reality, that does not really help as in the race you spend so much time on the wrong side of the road. Also, in a car you notice things that you would not see on the bike as you are going that much faster on two wheels. All in all, it was better to just get on the bike and get back in the groove”, stated Harrison.
A measured second place across the gruelling six lap race, which included refuelling and tyre changing, the total distance covered by competitors was a stunning 226.5 miles (364.5 km) and the Kawasaki under Harrison never missed a beat recording a race average speed of 129.8 mph (208.8 kph). With a podium in the first race after three years away from the Tourist Trophy, it was fair to predict that the DAO Kawasaki team and Harrison had more in reserve.
The following Supersport race saw the Ninja ZX-6R wheeled out of the DAO awning and an adjustment to Harrison’s riding style.
“On the ZX-6R you have to totally rethink your style and spend as much of the time as possible tucked in the fairing and try, if possible, to be even smoother. Into Glentramman the foliage has changed in these past years which, along with some road repairs and more bumps due to tree roots under the asphalt means I had to relearn much of the course. On the ZX-6R I don’t think my chin left the tank for more than a few seconds a lap and second place in the race was a good result – especially as myself and the race winner were the only bikes with a race average over 126 mph (202 kph)” said Dean.
The next race on “the big bike” was the Superstock TT with Harrison just missing out on a podium place holding a steady and unchallenged fourth place throughout the race. Although Dean felt he had more to give the handling of his Superstock Ninja ZX-10RR earned praise from the Bradford based rider. “Stability-wise it’s a great package and very stable certainly compared to other bikes out there. I tend to set it up quite hard on the suspension as it softens down at the speeds we do.”
Wednesday of TT race week played host to the Supertwins race, and the baton was handed to other riders to seek success. Paul Jordan of the PreZ racing team stepped up to the challenge recording a fighting third place on his Z650 based machine with an average race speed of 115.49 mph (185.86 kph). With five Kawasaki machines in the top ten, the Supertwins race witnessed the largest number of machines in the upper reaches of the results tables of a race at the 2022 TT for Kawasaki.
Next race for the DAO Kawasaki team was on Friday June 10 and the second Supersport race of the week. Reduced to two laps, Harrison held third across the race crossing the line to achieve yet another podium. “It’s important on the smaller bike to be as smooth as possible, to join the corners up in a seamless thread and lose as little time as possible,” commented Harrison.
Last race of the week – and held on Saturday thanks to changing conditions and then heavy rain on Friday - the Senior race is the Blue Riband event of TT week, the race all solo riders aspire to do well in. Harrison was second away at the start of the race following TT legend John McGuinness down Bray Hill, over Ago’s leap and then Quarter Bridge, the first right hand turn on the course.
Holding second spot on each of the six laps of the race, the rider order at the top of the time sheets was unaffected by pit stops which often turn the race on its head if a new wheel cannot be mounted properly or a replacement helmet visor proves hard to fit. One of only two riders in the race to achieve a race average over 129 mph (207.6 kph), Harrison’s final podium placing was a remarkable achievement as the DAO rider was at the receiving end of not one but two bird strikes during the six laps.
“The first bird hit me at Handley’s bend at end of Cronk-Y-Voddy straight,” said Dean. “It smashed through the screen and hit me in the face. After that the wind for the rest of the race felt like it was pulling my head off; then the second bird hit me! This time it was a pigeon and it hit the left of the bike so hard it damaged the fairing and disintegrated over my boot. I completed the race with my leg pressed against the side of the bodywork to stop it flapping about so second place was a result I was pleased with.”
As a return to the TT, Kawasaki teams and riders achieved much, and the DAO Kawasaki Racing team ran close the front of every race they competed in. Harrison was philosophical at the end of race week feeling that there was still more to come and looking forward to TT 2023.
“The lads in the team are legends and they provide me with amazing bikes. We had a few teething issues in practice week then in race week every bike I swung a leg over never missed a beat. I honestly think I have more to give, and my attention was diverted by changing tyre types during the week. There is also more to come from the bikes and with what we have learned this year we will be working on performance and handling modifications in the run up to next year’s event”.