What an amazing day it was at TT 2013. Fans were treated to morning and afternoon practice sessions in almost perfect conditions that saw the solo classes’ leader boards rewritten. In the Superbikes we saw Michael Dunlop and John McGuinness record laps at over 130 mph; Dunlop hitting 130.895mph and McGuinness responding with 130.106mph. Gary Johnson was next best at 129.611mph to push Bruce Anstey down to fourth. Josh Brookes again increased his speed to set the Newcomer’s practice record at 124.476mph; anyone who had doubts about him can now repent at their leisure; he is class.
In the Superstock, Guy Martin set the benchmark at 127.023mph; Michael Rutter was next at 125.248mph; Sean Anderson took third with his best ever lap at 125.156mph with Steve Mercer fourth at 125.113mph. This may give a false picture as most of the fancied runners stayed with their Superbikes and Supersports in the two sessions. The Supersport leader board had the name of Michael Dunlop at its head; his best lap was at 125.146mph. Again McGuinness was second placed; this time at 124.180mph; Anstey, William Dunlop, Guy Martin and MV mounted Gary Johnson completed the top six.
The Lightweights were headed by James Hillier at 115.665mph; lap record holder Rutter was next best at 115.213mph. Ivan Lintin, Jamie Hamilton, Michael Dunlop and Dean Harrison completed the top six. The TT Zero race seems set to see the first 110mph lap by an electric bike; with the Mugen of McGuinness and the Moto Czysz machines of Rutter and Miller all capable of doing so.
The highlight of a frenetic day saw Tim Reeves and Dan Sayle win the opening race of the 2013 Isle of Man TT Races, powered by Monster Energy, the dynamic duo taking victory in the 3-lap Sure Sidecar race by almost 20 seconds from Conrad Harrison/Mike Aylott with Dave Molyneux/Patrick Farrance a close third. For quadruple World Champion Reeves it was his first TT victory, five years after making his debut, whilst Sayle became the joint most successful passenger in history, joining Rick Long on eight wins.
With ideal conditions all around the Mountain Course, it was expected that having been fastest in practice, Molyneux and Farrance would use the clear road to advantage and set a pace the others could not match. They were first at Glen Helen on the road, but it Ben and Tom Birchall who grabbed the early initiative, leading at Glen Helen on the opening lap by 1.3s from Reeves/Sayle; Harrison/Aylott were third; Holden/Winkle fourth; Molyneux/Farrance found themselves back in fifth, although just 5s covered the leading five outfits.
At Ramsey, Molyneux continued to lead on the road; but the pack of hounds behind was closing the gap. Our watch showed the Birchall’s lead over Reeves/Sayle had increased to 5.5s; Reeves was 2.4s ahead of Harrison; Molyneux was up to fourth 2.3s down on Harrison, Holden was fifth and Doug Wright/Martin Hull were sixth. Wright /Hull had caught Gary Bryan/Jamie Winn on the road and were destined to spend the whole race in very close proximity; swapping some paint at Ramsey Hairpin on the final lap. Over the mountain the Birchalls continued to wring the neck of their Klaffi LCR Honda and they were right on the tail of Reeves as they approached Keppel Gate. Perhaps partially unsighted as they lined up an overtake, the machine clipped the inside banking and this cause a sidecar wheel puncture, this forced them to pull in to retire at Creg ny Baa; leaving Reeves in control of the race.
Reeves/Sayle led by 10.14s at the end of the first lap having lapped at 113.575mph. Molyneux/Farrance had been rapid over the mountain and taken second place from Harrison/Aylott who were less than two seconds behind in third, with John Holden/Andy Winkle, Dougie Wright/Martin Hull and Gary Bryan/Jamie Winn completing the top six. A little piece of history was seen on this lap when newcomer Estelle Leblond set the first 100mph+ lap by a female driver; she and passenger Sebastien Lavorel recorded 100.439mph; truly a wonderful performance.
On the second circuit, Reeves/Sayle continued to extend their advantage as they closed in on Molyneux/Farrance on the road, the lead was 16.5s at Glen Helen; 17.2 at Ballaugh and 17.95s as they blasted out of Ramsey. Harrison was pressuring Molyneux, whose lack of top end speed could not be compensated for by his ability to corner faster than his rivals; the gap was 1.16s at Glen Helen, 0.6s at Ballaugh; but out to 1.9s after the bumpy and technical run into Ramsey from Sulby. This stretch of the course has been in need of major rebuilding works for many years; it continues to deteriorate and must become a priority in the immediate future. Reeves pressed on and he was able to catch Molyneux as they made the Mountain climb once more. The second lap was Reeves’ best ever around the 37 and ¾-mile course at a speed of 114.608mph. The lead was the 20s staring interval plus the tiny gap they had on the road. Molyneux was again faster than Harrison over the mountain and had a 5s advantage as they crossed the line to begin the final lap.
On the final lap, Reeves/Sayle had the race wrapped up, save for mechanical misfortune, all that they had to do was stay close to Molyneux and the race was theirs. For the crowd the main interest now centred on the battle for second place between Molyneux/Farrance and Harrison/Aylott. Molyneux’s lack of top end meant that he could not pass Reeves on the straights but he was being held up in the twisty sections where Reeves rode a little more conservatively than previously. The gap between Molyneux and Harrison was less than five seconds at Glen Helen; it was 3.9s at Ballaugh but just 0.9s as the outfits screamed past us for the final time to face the mountain climb. The frustrated Molyneux could not pass Reeves despite several attempts; he was unable to gain time on the mountain climb as on the previous two laps.
Reeves/Sayle duly crossed the line just ahead of Molyneux/Farrance on the road but Harrison/Aylott grabbed second place after a more rapid run down from the Bungalow where Molyneux had been 0.9s ahead. They equalled their best ever result, by the miniscule margin of 0.538s after 113.19 miles of high speed action! Tim Reeves became the first reigning world champion to win a TT Race since his hero Jock Taylor accomplished the feat in 1981.Holden/Winkle were secure in fourth for the majority of the race whilst Wright/Hull also equalled their best ever result of fifth: Bryan/Winn duly taking sixth.
Gary Knight and Dan Knight had a superb drive into seventh, recording their first ever 110mph+ lap; with local pairing Karl Bennett/Lee Cain, Roy Hanks/Kevin Perry and Frank Lelias/Charlie Richardson rounding out the top ten. Estelle Leblond and Sebastien Lavorel, finished in 29th place at an average speed of 100.635mph, after a final lap at 100.908mph; hers was perhaps the best performance of all. We wish a speedy recovery to local man Dickie Gale; the passenger to Greg Lambert; who was taken ill during the race.
Wednesday’s second race should see fireworks; when the Birchalls and Molyneux/Farrance will be out to make a point.
Sure Sidecar Race 1
1. Tim Reeves / Daniel Sayle LCR Honda 113.728mph
2. Conrad Harrison / Mike Aylott Shelbourne Honda 113.093mph
3. Dave Molyneux / Patrick Farrance DMR Kawasaki 113.077mph
4. John Holden / Andrew Winkle LCR Suzuki 112.189mph
5. Doug Wright / Martin Hull Baker Honda 111.426mph
6. Gary Bryan / Jamie Winn Baker Yamaha 111.067mph