Isle of Man TT 2023 | 4 best moments

13th June 2023
James Charman

Another Isle of Man TT is in the books, and while it’s somewhat cliche to say that it was one of the best ever, it’s hard not to draw that conclusion after two weeks of glorious sunshine and records tumbling throughout the fortnight. Off the back of the emotional rollercoaster that was 2022, the 2023 edition was the perfect advert for why the TT is one of the greatest motorsport spectacles on the planet, and one that everyone should experience at least once in their life.


There was not a single red flag throughout race week, with all ten races running to their full scheduled distance. Only one weather-related delay caused schedule shuffles, with low cloud on the Mountain forcing the opening Supertwin to be pushed to an early evening race instead of late afternoon. There was, however, one slight dampener to the week, and it came in the delayed Supertwin encounter.

Raul Torras Martinez sadly lost his life on the final lap of the Supertwin race, having set his best-ever TT lap just hours earlier aboard a Superstock bike. His brother, Angel, honoured him by waving the flag to start the second Supertwin race later in the week. Raul’s death was the only death of the 2023 event, the first time since 2013 that there has been only a single fatality across the fortnight. While there was sadness at the end of the first race for Supertwins, the event itself was one to remember for years to come. Two riders stole all the headlines in the solo categories, while the long-standing sidecar champions added yet more trophies to their cabinet and reached a milestone they had been chasing for four years.

1. Michael Dunlop nears the top of the Mountain

Anyone who follows road racing, or is even acutely aware of its existence, will be more than familiar with the name Dunlop. It’s a name that goes hand in hand with racing on closed roads, and the family has produced four of the greatest racers to ever throw their leg over a racing motorcycle. There was always talk that Michael, the youngest of the dynasty, might be the one to overthrow his legendary Uncle Joey at the top of the all-time winner’s list. However, with the rise of Peter Hickman and Dean Harrison in the 1000cc categories, it seemed like Dunlop’s successes would have to be limited to the smaller-capacity machines.

Going into TT 2023, Dunlop sat third in the rankings with 21 TT victories to his name, two behind John McGuinness and five behind Joey. Michael entered as a favourite in both the Supertwin and Supersport categories, particularly after Lee Johnston’s withdrawal from the latter through injury. From the very first practice sessions, however, it was clear that Dunlop was on a mission. Breaking lap records, albeit unofficially, throughout practice week, a brave man would have bet against Dunlop for the opening race of the week.

Dunlop backed up his lightning pace in Saturday morning’s Supersport race, absolutely dominating across the four-lap encounter. What was more unexpected, however, was the carbon copy that occurred 24 hours later on the newly coined ‘Superbike Sunday’. His win in the Superbike TT was his first aboard a 1,000cc machine since 2018 and put him level with John McGuinness on the all-time winners' list – prompting ‘McPint’ to gatecrash the winner’s enclosure to congratulate Dunlop on the milestone.

Two more dominant performances in the opening Supertwin race and second Supersport race – which included a jaw-dropping 130mph lap on a 600cc bike – means he now sits just a single win behind Joey. He looked set to at the very least equal the magic number of 26 in the second Supertwin TT, but it wasn’t to be as mechanical gremlins took him out on the first lap. With Hickman unbeatable on Superstock machinery and returning to form on his Superbike in the Senior TT, it means we have to wait another 12 months for a chance to see Dunlop join (and probably beat) Joey at the top of the mountain.


Isle of Man TT 2023 | Race weekend results

11th June 2023


2. Birchalls Break the Barrier

A 120mph sidecar lap has been in the sights of the three-wheelers since 2019, but the ingredients have never quite fallen into place for it to be achievable. That was very much not the case this year. The vast majority of all sidecar competitors completed more laps in practice than they did throughout the entirety of 2022, meaning they had very few excuses not to have their outfits set up exactly how they needed them.

For the Birchall brothers, everything seemed to be going perfectly to plan – including running in engines over portions of the course and being picked up by a van halfway around. When it came to race day, there was clearly one thing on their mind – 120mph. The pair were kept honest on the opening lap of race one by the pairing of Pete Founds and Jevan Walmsley, but the Birchall boys pulled the pin on lap two.

Pulling out more than 12 seconds on their nearest rivals, the brothers crossed the line in a time of 18:48.541, good enough for 120.357mph. They backed off slightly on the final tour, but had no idea they had reached the milestone until they pulled into the winner’s enclosure and were handed the 120 road sign by Milky Quayle. The elation was plain to see, and a lengthy and emotional celebration with their families followed.

The Birchalls went faster yet in the second race, pushing the record up to 120.645mph, extending their winning streak to 11 and taking their totals to 14 wins, which puts them in joint sixth with the great Mike Hailwood. They were not the only pairing to hit 120, however, as Founds and Walmsley put in a lap speed of 120.079 on their very last lap of the week on their way to another second place in race two.


3. Hickman smashes lap record… on a Superstock!

It was a strange fortnight for the fastest road racer in the world. In recent years, Peter Hickman has been almost untouchable aboard a Superbike around the Isle of Man, which is unsurprising given he races the BMW M1000RR week in, week out in the British Championship. This year, however, things looked far from rosy on his Superbike machine, particularly in practice.

While the gremlins were ironed out in time for the Senior TT to close out the event, Hickman was far more comfortable on his Superstock bike all week – as was clear by his large wheelies and even watching the helicopter across the mountain as he romped to victory in the first of the two Superstock TTs. It would be his performance on the final lap of the second Superstock race that would really take everyone by surprise, however.

Already holding a five-second lead over Michael Dunlop going into the third and final lap, Hickman put his head down and started pushing in a way that only he seems to be able to on the big bikes. There had been talk all week that a 136mph lap would be possible in the Senior, but Hickman decided he wanted that record a day early. A simply stunning lap on the BMW obliterated the previous lap record and cemented Hickman’s status as the fastest road racer in the world. And he did it on a Superstock bike.


4. Browne, Brookes and Bian break TT ducks

The Supertwin races were perhaps the most wide-open competitions for podium positions all week, and while all eyes were fixed on Michael Dunlop trying to equal Joey’s record in the second race, the fight for debut podiums raged on behind him. The opening race had already thrown up a first-time TT podium for Mike Browne, who had overthrown the much fancied Jamie Coward to finish second behind Dunlop.

With both Dunlop and Coward suffering mechanicals in the opening lap of the second Supertwin race, Browne led Hickman into the pits in race two, with a four-rider fight for the final podium spot. Josh Brookes, Pierre-Yves Bian, Stefano Bonetti and Dominic Herbertson, all gunning for their first-ever top-three result, were separated by less than ten seconds and had just two laps to settle it.

It looked like a podium had gone out of the window for Brookes when an electrical issue lost him 30 seconds in the pits. He was handed a lifeline, however, when Browne’s clutch gave up on the run down the mountain on lap three, denying him an almost certain first TT win. Shortly after Herbertson was also recorded as a retirement. Brookes was the fastest man on the circuit for the next two laps and would come home third, just two seconds behind Bian. It was a good day for Brookes, who had also beaten his previous fastest lap earlier in the day aboard his Superstock, recording a top five in that race.

While much of the winning and the records went to just a handful of riders, there were stories and celebrations up and down the paddock, as well as some ‘might have beens’. It was a TT to forget for the Padgetts team, with both Davey Todd and Conor Cummins hampered by sickness across the weekend. Dean Harrison, meanwhile, was in a strange no man’s land – fast enough to finish on the podium in all of his races, but not quite fast enough to take the fight to Dunlop and Hickman.

Two weeks of racing absolutely flew by, just like the riders as they were smashing lap records and the countdown to 2024 has already begun. It will, no doubt, be a great event in 12 months’ time, but it will be very hard to beat 2023 in what may be as close to perfect as an Isle of Man TT could ever get.

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