2019 marks exactly thirty years since the Scot became the first rider to break the magical 120mph barrier around the 37.73-mile circuit, the achievement that forms the focus of this year’s celebrations. The 120mph lap still remains the benchmark for all competitors three decades on, and was an achievement that cemented the then 27-year old into TT history.
Having won his first TT in 1987, the following year saw him supported by Honda for the first time and, riding the new, homologation special Honda RC30, a lap of 118.44mph helped him finish in a superb second place to Joey Dunlop in the 1988 Senior TT. It was a lap that not only made him the third fastest rider of all time, but also the ‘young pretender’ to Dunlop’s ‘King of the Mountain’ tag.
1989 marked 30 years since Honda made their motorcycle racing debut at the 1959 TT but they were to be without their star man, as Dunlop was forced out of the 1989 TT due to injuries sustained at Brands Hatch on Good Friday. But Hislop rose to the occasion, sweeping all before him and riding at a level that even Dunlop would have found hard to match.
He already signalled his intentions from the word go, topping the leaderboard in the Formula One, 750 Production and Supersport 600 classes during Monday evening’s practice session, getting everyone excited about the prospects of both a sub 19-minute and 120mph TT lap.
The wait didn’t last long as both barriers fell on Tuesday evening when Steve lapped at 120.89mph on his production RC30 and two nights later, he lapped over half a minute quicker than Steve Cull’s then-outright lap record of 119.08mph from the year before as he recorded an incredible lap at an average speed of 121.99mph.
However, as these were unofficial laps that were posted in practice week, they were not categorised as new lap records. The opening six-lap Formula One Race would be a test to see if he could repeat the feat in race conditions and officially make it into the record books. Onlookers weren’t to be disappointed.
Hislop had opened his account for the week with a record-breaking victory in Friday evening’s Supersport 600 Race, so he lined up for the Formula One Race in confident mood. Conditions were perfect as Steve set off at number six on the red and white RC30 Honda on Saturday 3rd June and headed towards Bray Hill for the first time.
Clearly the fastest man on the island, his tactics were simple – dominate proceedings on the first lap and control the race from there on in. From a standing start, he shattered the 120mph barrier with a lap of 120.92mph. With the whole island buzzing, it gave him a commanding lead of 25.8s over fellow Scot and the similarly-mounted Brian Morrison – but he wasn’t done there.
Second time around, he upped the pace even further and although he couldn’t match his speed from Thursday evening, a second lap of 18m39.4s, 121.34mph – which proved to be the outright lap record – saw him extend his lead over Morrison further to 38s.
He continued apace and laps four (120.18mph) and six (120.24mph) made it four 120mph+ laps for the race. Despite running onto the pavement at Douglas Road Corner, Kirk Michael, because of the front brake pads being pushed back in the callipers on one lap, he eventually won by almost two minutes from Morrison who, a TT winner himself, also lapped in excess of 120mph for 2 of the 6 laps.
Hislop’s average speed over the whole 6 lap race, including two pitstops, of 119.36mph was quicker than the previous outright lap record, and Hislop had completed the six laps almost three minutes quicker than he had done in the previous year’s Senior.
With a win in the Senior TT at the end of race week, where his fastest lap was 120.69mph, Hislop duly completed his first TT hat-trick. Just like Bob McIntyre and John Williams had done before with the first 100mph and 110mph laps of the TT Mountain Course respectively, Hislop was in the record books forever and, without doubt, 1989 was the meeting that made him a TT legend and started his journey to TT greatness.
As part of the 'Back to the Future: The Hizzy Years', Brian Morrison will ride a replica of the 1989 Honda RC30 ridden by Steve Hislop as part of the demonstration lap on Saturday 24th August.
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Image courtesy of Bill Snelling