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Hickman Lifts the Spirits

The mood on the Island was still low following the tragic events of yesterday’s Sidecar Race. It was a fine but blustery morning and the road closed on time at 10 o’clock. The ‘blue riband’ of race week, the Milwaukee Senior TT, was due to start at 11 o’clock. Sixty years ago the weather was just about perfect with a freshening west wind.

Rearranging the Milwaukee Senior TT was no mean feat. The biggest concern was fulfilling the minimum marshalling requirement to run a race. A plea went out on Manx Radio for both experienced and new marshals to sign up. It is a credit to the race paddock that many riders, mechanics and helpers signed up to ensure the Milwaukee Senior took place.

Peter Hickman, Gas Monkey Garage by FHO Racing BMW M1000RR, topped the qualifying with a lap of 133.220mph on Thursday afternoon. By contrast Gary Hocking, MV Agusta, was fastest in practice in 1962 with an unofficial lap record of 104.18mph. In those days the riders started off in pairs and had to run and push their machines into life, they didn’t have the luxury of clutch starts.

John McGuinness, Honda Racing UK 1000cc Honda, led the 49 strong field away, starting his 104th TT race. Meanwhile Ron Lanstone, Norton, and Alan Shepherd, Matchless, were working up a sweat push-starting their machines. There were 63 starters and 13 non-starters. Earlier in the day history had been made when East German, Ernst Degna, won the first ever 50cc TT on a Suzuki. Beryl Swain became the first woman to compete in a solo TT race, she finished 22nd of the 25 finishers on an Itom.

Hocking led his teammate Mike Hailwood at the end of the first lap with a lap of 103.76mph. They wouldn’t be given an entry today with those speeds! Hickman was also forcing the pace and was ahead of Dean Harrison, DAO Racing Kawasaki ZX10-RR, by 8.363 seconds at the end of the lap. It had been an eventful lap for Harrison, he had hit a bird on the road between the 11th Milestone and Handly’s Corner. The bird had punctured two holes in the screen on the bike which was affecting the aerodynamics of the bike. Mark Parrett and Paul Jordan pulled into the pits and retired. Parrett said that the wind was too strong and was blowing him about. Jordan had been ill overnight and was still feeling the effects.

Hocking also had the hammer down and smashed the lap record by over 20 seconds on his second lap, recording a speed of 105.75mph. Second place man Hailwood also broke the record with a lap of 104.55mph but trailed Hocking by 16.4 seconds. Hickman didn’t break the lap record but still increased his lead to 14.620 seconds at the end of the second lap. The battle for third was hotting up with only 1.009 seconds separating the Milenco by Padgett’s Motorcycles Honda CBR1000RR-R of teammates Connor Cummins and Davy Todd. Yellow flags had been displayed at Quarry Bends because a family of ducks were crossing the road!!

100 years ago in the 1922 TT Alec Bennett was the first rider to have a start to finish win in the Senior TT, riding a Sunbeam. Could Hickman and Hocking follow suit? As Hocking and the field sailed past the Grandstand to start their third lap the 2022 leaders filed into the pits. James Hillier, Rich Energy OMG Racing 1000cc Yamaha, missed his pit and lost 15 seconds in pushing his machine back. He is not the first to do that and certainly won't be the last.

Hailwood hit trouble on the 3rd lap when he lost his bottom gear and trailed Hocking by 37.8 seconds as they pulled in for their pit stops. Hickman was still forcing the pace and led Harrison by 18.685 seconds at the end of the lap. He was now second on the road behind Harrison who started 80 seconds ahead of him. Cummins led Todd by just 0.870 seconds in the battle for third. Could there be another podium for the Manxman?

Conor Cummins would dearly love to win a TT and emulate Tom Sheard, first Manxman to do so. Sheard won the 1922 Junior TT on an AJS, one hundred years ago. It was pit stop time again for the modern day gladiators and Harrison was first into his pit although 19.341 seconds behind Hickman in the race. James Hillier lost another 12 seconds in his pit and Gary Johnson retired. He said that his bikes were good but just not performing. He also said that he nearly lost the front when the wheel came up in Kirk Michael when it was caught by a gust of wind. He said he will be back next year.

Hocking was leading Hailwood by 1 minute 22 seconds as they crossed the line. Hailwood stopped at his pit and lost 13 minutes whilst his pit crew changed his clutch plates, this elevated Phil Read and his Norton into second place with Ernie Boyce, also Norton mounted, into third. The pits were on the outside of the pit wall, trackside. One couldn't imagine that happening today!!

By the end of the fifth lap Hocking was leading Read by 5 minutes 41.6 seconds. Hickman had lost some time exiting the pits and the gap at the end of the lap was down to 16.549 seconds over Harrison. Harrison had also had his issues, he had been hit by another bird and this had damaged his fairing. Conor Cummins was slowly etching away from Davy Todd in third. Dominic Herbertson, Gilbert Brown & Son BMW S1000RR, was having a fine ride in 8th place until he slid off at Glen Helen. He was reported to have a hip injury.

Phil Read retired on the final circuit which moved Fred Stevens, Norton, into third. Gary Hocking was totally dominant and won by 9 minutes 5.28 seconds from Boyce and Stevens with a race average of 103.51. Hickman’s victory wasn’t quite so dominating, he beat Dean Harrison by 16.918 seconds to claim his 4th TT win of the week and his 9th in total. He averaged 129.432mph for the 6 laps. To the delight of the Manx, Conor Cummins secured the final rostrum position by 2.827 seconds, Tom Sheard would have been proud.

Milwaukee Senior TT and now 9 times TT winner Peter Hickman, Gas Monkey Garage by FHO Racing BMW M1000RR

Conor Cummins, Milenco by Padgett's Motorcycles Honda CBR 1000RR-R, doing the Isle of Man proud with his second rostrum position of the week.

 The consistent Raul Torras Martinez, Comercial Olle / Optimark Honda CBR1000RR-R SP, who collected 5 bronze replicas from five finishes

It was a terrific race with 27 of the 49 starters finishing. All riders were flagged off after Dean Harrison crossed the line, he being the leader on the road. Three riders, who had been overtaken, were classed as fifth lap finishers. Twelve silver replicas and 11 bronze replicas were awarded.

Mike Hailwood suffered further clutch problems but still managed to finish the race in 12th position, albeit 16 minutes 14 seconds behind Hocking. He secured the last of the silver replicas; there were also 8 bronze replicas awarded.

The Milwaukee Senior TT certainly lifted the mood on the Island, Peter Hickman is untouchable on the larger capacity machines and is not too shabby on the smaller ones!

An unfortunate consequence of running the Milwaukee Senior on Saturday was the cancellation of the Post TT Races at Billown. It was a great disappointment to all at the Southern 100 Club who had put in so much effort to stage the event. There are many officials, medics and marshals who were involved at the TT who would have been at Billown and thus it wasn’t possible for the Post TT Races to run. It was particularly disappointing for those riders who had come over specifically for the event.

Mike Hammonds