The final race of the Festival of Motorcycling was the main event of the Manx Grand Prix; the Senior Race. The now almost mandatory weather delay meant that the start was not made until 12.15. The weather for the race was decent; with a dry track; light breeze; intermittent sunshine; but clouds skirting the top of Snaefell.
The practice speeds were used for re-seeding the entire field; not just those outside of the top 20; as at the TT. This prevented fast newcomers such as Darryl Tweed; 11th fastest; from having to work their way past the riders allocated a lower number initially. Tweed would have started 82nd under that system and probably had his race ruined by it; so I for one am all in favour of it.
The race promised to be duel between Junior Race winner Michael Evans and the fourth placed rider in that race, Barry Lee Evans. They had 750cc Suzuki machinery whilst their main opposition was mounted on 600cc machinery. The extra capacity adding 10mph to top speed and giving more grunt up the mountain; the offset being less manoeuvrability.
Michael Evans was the first man away, on the black Bullock Suzuki of one the great supporters of the meeting, former top athlete Martin Bullock. Locals Dean Osborne and Jamie Williams were next away; then it was the turn of Barry Lee Evans on the big PRF Suzuki. Glenn Harrison and fellow local Joe Faragher were next to fire out of the traps and face the stomach churning dive down Bray Hill. The script was being followed 9 miles out at Glen Helen; Michael Evans led by 6s from Barry Lee Evans; with Wayne Humble springing a surprise to hold 3rd; having started 12th. He was 2s down on Humble; but led Jamie Williams by 0.5s. Then it was Gareth Evans; Joe Faragher, Glenn Harrison, Darren Cooper, Dean Osborne and David Lumsden; just 2.3s covering those six as the race started to take shape.
The leading two were on record breaking pace; although Michael Evans was not feeling great as the bike was moving around; possibly due the extra pace. He was watching his boards which showed that Barry Lee was chipping at the lead from Ballaugh onwards. At the Gooseneck there was a decent sized crowd to watch the race unfold. Michael Evans took the bend below and the Gooseneck itself on a lovely flowing line. Osborne was next and clearly trying very hard as he was forced to take a wider line around Gooseneck. Barry Lee Evans was next and he was bang on the ideal line; then it was Williams who like Osborne was clearly pushing hard. Our watch gave Michael Evans a lead of 3.8s as they powered away towards Joey’s and Guthrie’s. Williams was 11.3s down on Barry Lee Evans; Faragher, Osborne and Darren Cooper completed the leader board.
Michael was the quickest over the mountain and 18m 27.383s after blast off he crossed the line to set a new outright record for the MGP at 122.657mph. This superb lap gave him a lead of 6.14s over Barry Lee as they screamed away towards Bray Hill. Barry Le’s lap of 121.980mph gave him entry to the Tommy Club. Jamie Williams (119.939mph) was now 18.95s down in third; he had an advantage of 5.6s over Osborne. Faragher and Cooper held 5th and 6th; just 0.23s separated them. He was also fastest to Glen Helen where the lead was 9s. Barry Lee was pulling clear of the baying pack of 600cc machines; his advantage over Williams was out to 27s. Osborne; Faragher and Cooper were close behind covered by 5.5s. At Ballaugh the lead was 8.4s and it was 8.25s as they rounded the tight right hand bend at Gooseneck. Faragher’s race ended at Gooseneck, the machine coasted into view with a dead engine. His misfortune handed the final leader board place to Tom Robinson.
Michael was again rapid on the mountain section; he crossed the line and headed for the pits with a lead of 10.86s after raising the lap record to 122.866mph. Barry Lee also lapped at over 122mph and was 47.5s clear of Williams; but Williams was only 0.45s ahead of Osborne. Cooper and Robinson were 3s a part in the battle over 5th. The pit stops for Evans boys were almost identical; Osborne’s stop was about 5s quicker than that of Williams. However, the main loser was Cooper who was handed a 30s penalty for being marginally over the pit lane limit. This penalty does not seem to fit the crime; 5s would be more realistic for minor infringement; especially as ignoring waved yellow or red flags merely elicits a lecture in the comfy chair; or worse still; no action at all.
Back on track; at Glen Helen on lap 3 Michael led Barry Lee by 13.2s; Osborne was 47s further back. Williams, Robinson and David Lumsden completed the leader board. Michael’s lead was 14s at Gooseneck; whilst Barry Lee was now 56.7s ahead of Osborne. Osborne was being closed down by Williams; having been 5.8s at Ballaugh it was only 2.45s as they swept around Gooseneck. The lead grew markedly as they approached the end of the lap, a speed of 116.413mph gave Michael a lead of 23.5s as he crossed the line. Barry Lee surprised everyone by going into the pits. He was concerned by a slackening chain and went in for a safety check. After being stationary for 16s he was back into the fray; but his chance of victory was gone.
The Glen Helen timing point showed that Michael was safe with a 77s lead; but for Barry Lee it was uncomfortably close because Osborne was only 1.2s behind him. Thinking that his boards read 7.8s rather than 78s Michael pushed on for some time until he realised what the boards really said and eased his pace. Barry Lee could no such thing; he had to keep trying to ensure that Osborne was denied the second step on the podium. At the Gooseneck for the final time Osborne nearly threw away his chance; he ran wide and made contact with the bank on the exit; throwing up some grass; dust and soil; but somehow he saved it and wrung the bike’s neck going away towards Joey’s. Tiredness and hot brakes meant that he was not alone in having problems rounding the corner on this lap.
There were no more minor dramas over the mountain and Michael Evans duly crossed the line to take his record breaking victory. In doing so he joined Brian Venables (1994) and Alan Holmes (1957) as the only Manxmen to complete the Junior / Senior double; a fantastic achievement. Barry Lee Evans took second, 10.7s ahead of Osborne who despite his scare lapped at 120.709mph and joined the Tommy Club. Also joining that illustrious club was David Lumsden whose final lap at 120.956mph enabled him to snatch 4th from Williams by 2.8s. Nick Anderson completed the leader board; reward for a fine ride; his lap of 119.887mph agonisingly close to breaking the 120 barrier. Glenn Harrison in 7th again broke that barrier with 120.253mph on his final lap. Best newcomer was Darryl Tweed in 8th; he is definitely one to watch next year; if he opts not to graduate straight to the TT.
This was a great race with which to end what was an excellent meeting that gave us some close racing and saw the emergence of new talent. Those who want to slowly strangle the life out of the event should think again; this is still by far the best nursery for budding TT riders; long may it continue. Hopefully we can all gather again in June to marvel at the speed ; skill and bravery of the TT riders; if not; it has been a blast; thank you for reading.
Senior Manx Grand Prix
- Michael Evans Bullock Suzuki 120.557mph
- Barry Lee Evans PRF Suzuki 118.964mph
- Dean Osborne Osborne Kawasaki 118.671mph
- David Lumsden Bullock Honda 118.025mph
- Jamie Williams Jaks Honda 117.954mph
- Nick Anderson DW Kawasaki 117.073mph