The Isle of Man Festival of Motorcycling endured a fraught week of practice that saw most sessions curtailed by mist and one cancelled altogether. The first practice session saw six crashes involving newcomers; thankfully none suffering injury. This madness incurred the wrath of the Clerk of the Course who told them to behave or ship out. Friday’s final session witnessed some shocking behaviour. The session began on time and in reasonable conditions; but as first man on the road Michael Dunlop reached Ballaugh a cloak of mist descended on the highest stretches of the mountain; most notably from Bungalow to 32nd Milestone. This made line of sight marshalling impossible and the use of Airmed fraught with unnecessary danger. It seemed inevitable that the session would be stopped; but it was not; stationary yellow flags were displayed at Bungalow to warn of the bank of mist just ahead. Riders ignored the yellow flags; did not slow at all and many performed overtaking manoeuvres. When the inevitable happened and there was a crash in the mist; the red flags did come out; one on the approach to Bungalow; one at the Bungalow itself. Shockingly several riders did not stop and rode on into the mist where the fallen rider was being assisted by marshal and paramedics. These selfish idiots should have been identified and sent home for putting at risk the lives of the fallen and the officials assisting him. There is no place in real road racing for clowns like these.
Our first race day gave us excellent conditions; dry roads and perfect visibility. The day proved to be an Anzac benefit with start to finish victories for Australia’s Josh Brookes and New Zealand’s Bruce Anstey. In the Bennetts Senior Race Ian Lougher was first to be sent away from the line by starter John McGuinness. However; he was also the first retirement of the race when the Chapman MV expired at Greeba Bridge. Another of the pre-race favourites to suffer early misfortune was Michael Rutter; a front wheel puncture caused him to slide off at Ballacraine. He escaped with nothing more than a sore elbow and a fine collection of bruises. At Glen Helen on the first tour Josh Brookes, on the Winfield Paton, had established a lead of 7s over the Davies Honda of William Dunlop; with last year’s podium finisher Maria Costello in third on the Beugger Paton, just 0.5s behind. Jamie Coward held 4th place, Michael Dunlop 5th and Alan Oversby 6th.
There was a large crowd at Ballaugh to watch the riders leap the famous old bridge. There were some fine leaps during the race; most notably from James Hillier and Nick Jefferies. Coward was first on the road, next was Dunlop whose machine was issuing a stream of fine blue smoke. William Dunlop, Brookes and Costello were next through. The watch showed Brookes led by 13.1s from Coward; who was 0.6 ahead of William Dunlop; with Costello another 1.3s back from him. Three miles down the road fifth placed Alan Oversby was black flagged; but then allowed continue with the time at rest credited to him. It was not his day because he pulled in at Ballaugh on lap 2 with smoke pouring from the machine and his leathers soaked in oil.
At Ramsey; Brookes had extended his lead to 20s and continued to pull away on the mountain section. His first lap of 111.295mph gave him a lead of 33.3s over Coward (108.34mph); who was 1.7s ahead of Costello (108.204mph). William Dunlop, Bill Swallow and Dominic Herbertson filled the remaining leader board places. Swallow and Herbertson pitted for fuel at the end of the lap; Swallow then incurred a pit lane speeding penalty of 30s; dropping himself well down the order. Brookes; riding conservatively to save his engine still managed to extend his lead on the second lap. At half distance he led by 38.7s from Coward who posted a superb lap speed of 110.054mph on the Craven Manx. Costello was third as she crossed the line: 0.765s ahead of Dunlop. She elected to pit at this time and her tiny advantage became a deficit of 48s at Glen Helen on lap 3.
All of the nuances of the different pit stop strategies would play themselves once the final lap began. A third lap of 110.823mph allowed Brookes to enter pit lane for his splash and dash with an advantage of 47.23s over Coward. In theory he should have left the pits about 10s ahead. Theories are just that and an engine that was reluctant start and had to revisit the rollers saw this disappear. With nothing to lose Brookes decided to give it everything and remove his self imposed rev limit. At Glen Helen he had a lead of 2.5s over Coward. Behind them a rapid pit stop had allowed William Dunlop to exit with 7s in hand over Costello.
At Ballaugh, the leaders were literally flying; Brookes was on a mission and now over 15s ahead of Coward. In the battle for 3rd, Dunlop had an advantage of 8.7s over Costello. Brookes continued to pull away from Coward and after a final lap at 108.068mph he took his first Mountain Course victory by 34.03s from Coward who had the satisfaction of setting the best lap ever by a 500cc single cylinder machine. The best ever lap by a single cylinder machine was set by Jim Moodie on his 660cc Harris Yamaha in 1994 at 112.66mph. Dunlop managed to keep Costello at bay and take the final podium place by 7.5s. Herbertson took 5th; with Bill Swallow recovering from his pit penalty to take 6th by 10.7s from the leading privateer; Michael Russell.
Brooks was delighted to have won the race saying that it was an honour to stand in for John McGuinness and win for the team. Hopefully this will be the first of many wins on the course for one of the nicest guys in the paddock.
Bennetts Senior Classic TT
- Josh Brookes Winfield Paton 110.167mph
- Jamie Coward Craven Manx Norton 109.412mph
- William Dunlop Davies Honda 107.400mph
- Maria Costello Beugger Paton 107.241mph
- Dominic Herbertson Davies Honda 106.456mph
- Bill Swallow Gleve Paton 104.807mph
Lightweight practice had been dominated by Bruce Anstey and so it proved to be in the race; he simply shredded the record books as he went on his way. He stamped his authority on the race right from the drop of the flag. By Glen Helen on lap 1 he had cut 9s out of the starting interval that Ian Lougher had at the off. Lougher is a two stroke expert; TT winner and former lap record holder; but simply had no answer. The clock showed that Anstey led the race by 5s from Manxman Dan Sayle; with Michael Dunlop 4s down on Sayle and 0.1s ahead of Lougher. Anstey was first into Ramsey and now 19s ahead of Lougher. Michael Rutter was next into Ramsey on the beautiful Red Fox Grinta Racing Ducati; a tribute to his father Tony. He was just ahead of Michael Dunlop who clearly had a problem; Dunlop duly retired in the pits. Our watch indicated that Anstey’s lead over Sayle had grown to 16.6s; Rutter was third 0.35s ahead of Lougher.
Anstey flew the mountain and crossed the line to record the fastest ever lap by a 250cc machine and breaking the 19m barrier. His stunning lap at 119.888mph gave him a lead of 25.7s over Sayle who lapped at 117.225mph. Rutter held third 2.5s ahead of Lougher; Ivan Lintin and Dan Kneen completed the top 6.
Lap 2 saw no change in the leader board; the focus of attention being if the flying kiwi could achieve his aim and that of Padgetts; to break the 120mph barrier on the Honda that a winter’s attention had been lavished upon. Our watch indicated that Ramsey to Ramsey he was just shy of 121mph. Slowing to go into the pits cost him some time but that did not prevent him from lapping in 18m 47.438s; raising the record to an amazing 120.475mph. This gave him a lead of 51.9s over Sayle who lapped at 117.74mph; with Rutter third (117.504mph).
Aware of both the record and his comfortable lead; Anstey eased his pace to save the engine. Behind him Sayle was out of luck; he had to park the machine at Glen Tramman. At the end of lap 3 Anstey led by 70s from Rutter; with Lougher 13s down on Rutter. Anstey cruised around the final lap; behind him Lougher was trying hard and nibbling into Rutter’s advantage; but despite setting the best speed on the final lap (117.742mph) he fell short by 2.36s.
Dunlop Lightweight Classic TT
- Bruce Anstey Padgetts Honda 117.853mph
- Michael Rutter Red Fox Grinta Ducati 115.723mph
- Ian Lougher LayLay Yamaha 115.665mph
- Ivan Lintin Chapman Honda 113.618mph
- Phil Harvey CSC Honda 111.253mph
- Dan Cooper Turner Yamaha 110.381mph