DAVID Johnson stole victory from the clutches of Michael Dunlop in today’s RST Superbike Classic TT finale after the Northern Irishman retired on the very last lap.
The Team Classic Suzuki had led almost the entire race, but was hit with issues within a few miles of the finish as Robert Burns/Alasdair Cowan Racing’s Johnson took the win.
With qualifying pace-setter Dean Harrison out after his practice accident, Dunlop topped the board straight out of the gates as he beat Johnson to Glen Helen by over 1.6sec, with Team York Suzuki’s Gary Johnson just over two seconds adrift in third.
But by Ballaugh, David Johnson had cut almost half a second off Dunlop’s time while Milenco by Padgett’s Conor Cummins slotted into third as he and Derek Sheils jumped ahead of Gary Johnson.
Dunlop pushed his advantage back out to over two seconds on the run to Ramsey, but David Johnson reeled back the tenths he’d lost by the time they hit the Bungalow before the Northern Irishman flew past the grandstand to begin lap two with a 124.87 in the bag to the Aussie’s 124.65.
But on the run to Glen Helen, Johnson fell two seconds back as XR69-mounted Dunlop powered out to a 3.877sec advantage, extending it to over six seconds as they hit Ballaugh.
The Ballymoney man pulled out another three seconds on the climb to the Bungalow, with Team Winfield’s Michael Rutter grabbing a tow on his tail to move up to third as he pipped Manxman Cummins as they hit the pits.
But Dunlop lost more than 10sec to Johnson in gasoline alley and when they left the pits, Johnson had nabbed the lead back by 1.3sec and tacked on another few tenths on the run to Glen Helen.
Meanwhile, 23sec back, Sheils put the Greenall Racing machine third on the timesheets after pipping Rutter, but Rutter got him straight back in the next sector before stopping to make adjustments at Gwen’s, handing third back to the Irishman.
En route to Ballaugh, Dunlop sliced his deficit to just 0.444sec before overhauling Johnson as he led by almost four seconds as he started the mountain climb for the penultimate time.
With almost five seconds in hand, Dunlop sped past the grandstand to begin his final lap and continued to control the action as he built his lead all the way to the bottom of the mountain, while behind Oxford Racing Ducati’s James Hillier slipped ahead of Sheils to take over third place some 42sec behind.
But disaster struck for Dunlop as he retired at Hillberry within just a few miles of the finish, handing victory to Johnson for his first Classic TT win as Sheils was promoted to second just 1.5sec clear of Hillier.
Cummins came home fourth ahead of Team Herheim’s Ryan Kneen, who made a stunning run from his 21st-place start position to cross the line fifth.
Mistral man Michael Sweeney and Greenall’s Rob Hodson took sixth and seventh while Davey Todd, the recovering Craig Neve and Cookson Travel’s Michal Dokoupil completed the top 10.
Retirements included Sam West, Brian McCormack, Gary Vines, Stephen Smith, Richard Vuillermet, Gary Johnson, Paul Jordan, Phil Crowe, Jamie Coward