The two extremes of TT fortune are being shown by Aussies Cameron Donald and David Johnson this year.
Donald has endured a frustrating week of mechanical misfortune to finally finish a race last night (Australian time), while Johnson has followed up his spectacular seventh placing in Saturday’s Superbike TT with a strong 9th finish in last night’s Superstock TT.
Meanwhile Alex Pickett is picking up the pace as a privateer back in the Supersport field.
Donald finished 10th (121.117mph lap average) in the first Supersport race, 11 seconds behind Gary Johnson (Triumph), who last year finished 3rd and 5th in the two races.
“I’m not where I want to be but very happy to finish,” the Melbourne-based rider said afterwards about his race performance.
Donald switched from Norton to Honda this year after reliability issues meant he’d only finished one race in two years.
“I need to get laps and build confidence again,” he said of his switch to the respected Wilson Craig Honda team.
However, his Superbike engine blew in the first lap of practice and he has had continuing mechanical issues with his Supersport bike.
A replacement Superbike engine was rushed over from Europe but on arrival it was discovered it was the wrong specification to meet TT rules. So a hybrid engine was built up based on Superstock crankcases.
Without time to test, Cameron gambled on it being OK for the Superbike TT but had to pull in soon after the start at Quarter Bridge.
By contrast, Norton has finally found reliability and race pace, partly due to a completely new engine management system that helps tame the fierce power delivery of its MotoGP-spec Aprilia V4 engine.
Adelaide-based Johnson made TT history in the Superbike race, lapping at 130.872mph to become the fastest ever rider of a British motorcycle.
Last night Johnson took this form into the Superstock race on his BMW. He finished 9th, just six seconds behind William Dunlop (Kawasaki), after starting from 15th.
Like the Superbike race, he started with the grid position ahead of him empty so he had no one to chase off the line.
Again, he showed consistency and speed over the four laps.
From a standing start his first circuit of the 60km course was a 127.295mph average. He followed this up with a 127.445mph lap two. Returning to the track for lap three after a refuelling pit stop he clocked a 119.237mph lap and then a 128.201mph average on the run home.
Afterwards he gave a frank assessment of how he had handled the race.
“It was a tough race mentally after what happened on Saturday evening (fellow racer Paul Shoesmith died in a practice crash),” he said. “Probably the toughest ever. I was confident that the Superstock TT was going to be my best chance of a top three result (he finished 4th in 2014 and 6th last year). But, to be honest, I rode the first two laps like an idiot. I just wasn’t in the right head space.
“I got my shit together in the last two laps but it was only good enough for 9th. It’s not a bad result but nowhere near where I should have been.”
Another Aussie on the charge is Alex Pickett, from NSW. He started in 42nd place in the Supersport race and finished a creditable 31st. Pickett has another chance on Wednesday (Thursday Australian time) to better this effort on his Kawasaki.
Paul Shoesmith’s death has hit the Aussies hard. At various times he has sponsored both Johnson and Pickett.
Shoesmith was aged 50 and the father of four children.
Last year he revealed the drive that keeps racers coming back to the TT.
“We all accept the dangers and if I lost my life here I would want the show to continue,” he said.
Words By: HAMISH COOPER