A perfect day on the Isle of Man saw some fine racing in the Pre-TT Classic Races at Billown; then a superb TT practice session. In perfect conditions; still; warm and bright the session began right on schedule. A triple winner last year Ian Hutchinson was instantly at home on the Tyco BMW; he continued his excellent form from 2015 by setting the fastest time of the night with a speed of 129.964mph on the Tyco BMW, two seconds quicker than Michael Dunlop who put his BMW around at over 129mph on three laps.
However, the main interest of the night was on two new machines; Bruce Anstey’s Padgett’s Honda RCV213-V and the Suter of Ian Lougher. Ian had given this a couple of laps at Billown earlier in the day. Bruce Anstey led the practice away with Michael Rutter; but chose the stocker for his lap; then he took the beast out for its first run in anger on the road and set a hugely impressive speed of 127.071mph.
The evening saw a large crowd gathered at the Bungalow; where Rutter was the first to burst into view from the mini veranda section of left hand bends. Hutchy was next; then James Hillier and Dean Harrison. John McGuinness was going well; he had taken 9s out of team mate Conor Cummins
First to complete a lap was Rutter at 125.152mph swiftly followed by Hutchinson 124.914mph, Peter Hickman 122.324mph, Hillier 123.490mph, and Gary Johnson (123.272). The pace increased as the riders settled to the task Harrison raised the bar to 125.404mph but that lasted only briefly, Michael Dunlop raised it to127.395mph. In the Superstock class Steve Mercer 124.881mph and Ivan Lintin 123.823mph were also going well.
Hutchinson, Hickman, Johnson, Dunlop and Harrison all pulled in as did Anstey who had a relatively slow lap at 117.828 but the Kiwi was soon back out, this time on the RCV213-V Moto GP replica machine. Ian Lougher’s first foray on the Suter did not go as planned; he was forced to stop at Glen Darragh. He managed to return to the Grandstand and later completed a lap at 115.248mphon the two stroke machine; it sounded very crisp as it powered up towards Brandwell.
McGuinness, Rutter, Hillier and Mercer had continued straight through for their second lap and Rutter was first to complete the lap at 127.031mph but McGuinness was faster, his speed of 128.871mph sending him to the top of the leader board. Hutchinson quickened his pace second time around to 126.470mph with Conor Cummins not far behind at 125.905mph.
As the session wore on, the majority riders swapped between their Superbike and Superstock machines and Dunlop’s fourth lap on his Superbike saw him lap at 129.497mph but Hutchinson went even quicker at 129.96mph; an amazing pace for the first practice on the machine. Harrison jumped to the top of the leader board in the Superstock class at 128.044mph. Anstey showed what a missile the RCV is by being fastest through the Sulby speed trap at 193.4mph. It certainly looked very rapid on the climb away from the Bungalow its throaty roar contrasting to the whining of the across the frame 4s.With a few tweaks this machine will give Bruce a real chance come race day; over 127mph straight out of the box is more than promising.
Harrison topped the Superstock class with a speed of 128.044 mph, followed by Dunlop 126.726mph, Hickman 125.725mph, McGuinness 125.574mph, Steve Mercer 124.881mph and Daniel Hegarty 124.104mph.
Having had a lengthy session on Saturday evening, not many riders opted to take out their Supersport machines; of those who did Harrison was again quickest, as he had been in Saturday’s opening session, with 124.461mph followed at 122.067mph by Lee Johnston, who completed his first laps having broken down on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the newcomers were also increasing their speeds steadily, Jochem van den Hoek lapping at 108.85mph, Alessandro Polita 108.831mph, Forrest Dunn 106.464mph and Mike Booth 105.135mph.
Karl Foster was reported to have sustained ankle and wrist injuries in an accident at the 32nd milestone and was taken by airmed to Nobles Hospital.
The Formula Two Sidecar class enjoyed their first qualifying session at the 2016 Isle of Man TT Races fuelled by Monster Energy, which followed on from the solo session.
The session got underway shortly after the scheduled 7.55pm start time, in ideal conditions. Fastest to Glen Helen and Ballaugh were the reunited Dave Molyneux and Daniel Sayle; however a promising lap came to an end when they had to park the outfit at Ramsey Hairpin. For John Holden/Andrew Winkle, who were reunited this year after Winkle’s enforced absence with injury last year, it was business as usual as they swept majestically around the left hander at the Bungalow.
The Lancashire pair, who won their only TT Race to date in 2011, stamped their authority on proceedings with an opening lap of 112.055mph, the fastest of the night, which they followed up with a second lap of 111.97mph which was the second fastest in the session.
Also right on the pace was the father and son team of Ian and Carl Bell. Ian Bell is clearly relishing his return to the Mountain Course, with two 111mph+ laps, the third and fourth fastest of the session. Ian Bell recorded his first and only TT win in 2003 and returned to the TT after an 11 year absence in 2014.
They were the only two other crews to break the 110mph barrier with last year’s double winners, Ben and Tom Birchall, third quickest at 108.981mph. Alan Founds/Aki Aalto were also above the 108mph barrier with Tim Reeves/Patrick Farrance overcoming early problems to complete two laps, the quickest at 107.023mph.
The weather is set for this evening; so a full session of high speed action should enfold for the rapidly increasing number of fans on the island.