Having enjoyed glorious weather, excellent track conditions and an incident-free practice week, there’s a real buzz going around the Isle of Man as race week beckons. With the top riders all showing unbelievable pace during the five consecutive days of qualifying practice, expectation for a record-breaking TT 2023 is high, with lap records expected to tumble during the packed race week.
Times have been strong all week, with multiple TT winners Peter Hickman and Michael Dunlop setting the pace. Both were under the existing superbike lap record in today’s final qualifying session, with Dunlop becoming the fastest ever rider around the iconic 37.73-mile course – averaging 135.531mph on his Hawk Racing prepared Honda CBR1000RR-R Fireblade.
Dunlop, the third most successful TT rider of all time, has topped the charts in the Supersport and Supertwin classes as he looks to add to his tally of 21 TT wins – two short of John McGuinness and five behind his legendary uncle Joey.
Hickman, winner of the three 1000cc TTs in 2022, finished second fastest in qualifying. The FHO Racing BMW rider claims there’s still more to come from his M 1000 RR come race week, setting up what looks to be a thrilling head-to-head rivalry in the races. Hickman tops the Superstock standings from Dunlop, and is second to his rival on the smaller capacity Supersport machine.
Away from the top two, three-time TT winner Dean Harrison has also been over 134mph in practice, with Davey Todd, Conor Cummins, Jamie Coward, John McGuinness and Josh Brookes all posting 130mph laps and all capable of challenging for podium finishes in the races.
In the sidecars, class kings Ben and Tom Birchall went under their own lap record with a sub 19-minute, 119.414mph average. The brothers have won every sidecar TT they’ve finished since 2013 (12 in total) and will be favourites to extend their outright streak to 10 wins in tomorrow’s festival opening first Sidecar TT.
Carole Nash Supertwins
Carole Nash is excited to be partnering with the Isle of Man TT Races, and we’ll be the naming sponsor of the two Supertwin TTs. The Supertwins, like the 1000cc Superstock machines, get an extra race in 2023, extending the total number of races from eight to 10 in a programme which now starts with the first Supersport TT rather than the Superbikes, which move back a day to Sunday.
The twins, which feature racing-modified versions of sub-700cc parallel twin machines like the Kawasaki Z650 and Yamaha R7, have been dominated by that man Dunlop. The 2018 and 2019 Lightweight TT winner was under his own lap record to top practice on his self-run Paton.
Sadly some of the most popular TT riders will be missing this year’s event. Former Supersport TT winner Lee Johnston and factory Honda rider Nathan Harrison are both out of the TT after crashing at the North West 200 in May while a third seeded rider, Gary Johnson, hurt himself in a road race in Czechia. Irish rider Micko Sweeney is another to sit it out after an incident at the North West, while local favourite Conor Cummins looks likely to miss at least the opening weekend of racing due to illness. Maria Costello is another absentee and will miss both the Sidecar and Supertwin TTs after crashing her Paton in the opening Supertwin practice session.
Alongside the established names, there are a few up-and-comers to look out for at TT 2023.
Although not a rookie, former British Superbike Champion Josh Brookes has been an infrequent TT visitor over the past decade. Riding alongside Hickman at the FHO Racing squad, he’s looking to beat his best finish of fifth in his last appearance, some five years ago.
Others looking to make a breakthrough include Jamie Coward, who has been in the top five in most classes during practice, and Mike Browne who has shown good form in the smaller classes. Indeed, the Carole Nash Supertwins could be the place to find a podium debutant, with Coward, Browne and Brookes all lining up behind Dunlop at the head of qualifying.
Where to watch
If you can’t make it to the island, you can follow all the action live on the excellent TT+ streaming service. ITV4 will also show its fantastic highlights show each night, while live timing and commentary from Manx Radio can be found on the TT website. You can find the schedule of the races and coverage of all the action in our TT Guide. And stick with us at Carole Nash Insidebikes, where our team will be covering the races on our website and social channels.