James Hillier and the Quattro Plant Wicked Coatings Kawasaki team ended their 2019 Isle of Man TT races campaign with a strong fifth place in Friday’s Senior TT race.
The result was even more impressive as the Hampshire rider was back in 21st place at Glen Helen on the opening lap after running on at Ballacraine.
With good conditions all around the Mountain Course, the best they’d been all week, the six-lap race got underway at 10.00am but it was clear James had run into problems on the opening lap as he was way down the order at Glen Helen as he later revealed the aforementioned overshoot.
With an opening lap of 128.412mph, he worked his way up to 11th place after the first 37.73 miles and with an improved speed of 128.810mph second time around on the Kawasaki ZX-10RR, he moved up the leaderboard two places.
By half-race distance, the 34-year-old had moved up two further places to seventh but he was closing in rapidly on Davey Todd and Michael Rutter who were lying in fifth and sixth and a fourth lap speed of 130.828mph saw him overhaul the latter and close to within three seconds of Todd.
On the penultimate lap, James moved ahead of Todd to take fifth place but there was less than two seconds between the two riders and James had to push every inch of the way on the final lap.
That’s exactly what he did and with his final lap of 131.597mph (his quickest of the week) being eight-tenths of a second quicker than Todd, he secured fifth place at the chequered flag by 2.6s. The week’s results of second, third, fourth, fifth and seventh saw James score 69 points which placed him in an excellent third overall in the Joey Dunlop TT Championship with the team also taking third overall in the Team Championship.
James said: “I caught a bump going into Ballacraine on the first lap just as I hit my braking marker, and it kicked the rear wheel up into the air which meant I had to release the brake. I had little option but to run straight on and it obviously cost me loads of time.
“I really didn’t enjoy the lap and, to be honest, I was going to pull in at the end of the lap but then I thought about my record of finishing races around here so I decided to plug away.
“I’m glad I did as I started to enjoy the race again and slowly but surely I was able to work my way up the leaderboard.
“I could see it was close between Davey and myself and the gap stayed pretty constant on the final lap so I had to keep pushing. I didn’t go crazy and rode within myself but it was a good lap and to come from 21st to fifth is pretty pleasing.
“Obviously I came here to win so I’m a bit disappointed that I didn’t, but overall it’s been a good week with some good results, the highlights being two podiums, and a big thanks to the team as always.”
Pete Extance, the team owner, said: “It was a difficult start to today’s race for James when he overshot at Ballacraine and he fell a long way back. The sector times weren’t quite as good as what he normally does but after the first pit stop, he really knuckled down and the times started to come.
“With some good lap times, he climbed all the way back up to fifth place which was a very creditable position given how far down the order he’d dropped.
“The team are very happy with their 2019 TT campaign and it was nice to get two more podiums although the big bike win continues to elude us.
“We’ll have to come back in 2020 and try again so thank you to all the sponsors and also the organisers who have done a great job all fortnight in some difficult and challenging circumstances.”
The team now return to the British Superbike Championship with Glenn Irwin and Héctor Barberá contesting round four at Brands Hatch (14th to 16th June).
Dunlop Senior TT (6 laps)
1. Dean Harrison (Kawasaki)
2. Peter Hickman (BMW)
3. Conor Cummins (Honda)
4. Michael Dunlop (BMW)
5. James Hillier (Quattro Plant Wicked Coatings Kawasaki)
6. Davey Todd (BMW)