Conditions were just about perfect for the opening races of the Manx Grand Prix part of the Festival of Motorcycling. There was some cloud drifting over the island on the light morning breeze and there were dry roads all round the course for the 2013 Newcomers Races, the first of the 2013 Manx Grand Prix Race meeting.
The Newcomers A Race, predominantly featuring 600cc machines: Newcomers B for SuperTwin bikes and Newcomers C Race for Lightweight machines, started right on time at 10.15.
London based Neil Gregory had the honour of starting proceedings on his Triumph Daytona, followed by Northwich rider Connor Behan on Ryan Farquhar’s KMR Kawasaki; with Daley Mathison from County Durham third away.
Neil Lyons was the first on corrected time at Glen Helen from later starters Chris Dixon and Australian Alexander Picket, the fastest qualifier. These two had to work their way past slower riders; but having been a couple of seconds down at Glen Helen both Dixon and Pickett both had moved past the Irish rider by Ballaugh. It was not Lyons’ day and he was eventually retired in the pits at the end of the opening lap.
Connor Behan was first to sweep into our view at Schoolhouse Corner, a fast, sweeping left hand bend on the approach to Parliament Square. He was fairly rapid through the corner but using noticeably less of the road coming into the corner than the leading riders use in the TT. Possibly he was avoiding the adverse camber and hump in the road on the approach; these are amongst many such track features that need to be addressed by the Isle of Man Department of Infrastructure; the course from Sulby to Ramsey would quite frankly not look out of place in a third world country. The action was excellent with a few riders using the bus stop on the exit as part of the track. Pickett on the booming Ducati was the quickest rider of the day through the corner; but it was Dixon who led by 3.9s, with Marc Livesey third, 2s down on Pickett.
A lap at 113.527mph by Christopher Dixon gave him a lead of 9.2s over Marc Livesey (112.659mph) with Alexander Pickett third at 112.504 mph. Only Alexander Pickett of the leading riders, on the Ducati 848, came in for fuel at the end of the opening lap and with the team advising that he would have to pit at the end of every lap, it was clear that a podium place was out of reach.
Dixon was untroubled and extended his lead to 39.s by the end of the second lap from Livesey with Behan holding third. Dixon needed the lead he’d built up as he was hit with a thirty-second time penalty for speeding out of the pits at the end of the second lap. He knew at the time that he had knocked off the limiter; but did not let it upset him and he continued to ride impressively and rebuild his lead. A quick fill up routine allowed Behan to take second from Livesey as they left pit lane.
Dixon led from Behan by just four seconds at Glen Helen on the third lap with Livesey a further two seconds back in third. At Schoolhouse, Dixon had extended his lead to 23.2s and a third lap of 109.624mph gave him a lead of 24.3s as he began his final circuit. It was tight behind him with Behan; who had been hit by a bird on the approach to the Verandah; just 3.1s ahead of Livesey. A final lap of 115.00mph gave him victory with a race average speed of 112.511mph. The fastest lap of the race at 115.139mph secured second place for Behan; he finished 22.4s down on Dixon. Livesey took the final podium place 12.5s behind Behan.
In the Newcomers B race Callum Collister went one better than his father Sean, who tried for twenty-five years to win an MGP race but never finished higher than second. The Olive Bullock Scholarship rider took the lead fellow Manxman Joe Faragher; on the KMR Kawasaki; after Glen Helen on the opening lap and began to edge away. He led by 7s as the throaty twins swept into Ramsey for the first time. A first lap speed of 108.626mph gave Collister a lead of 14s as he left to face Bray Hill for the second time. James Neesom held the third podium place by 18s from Peter Minns. Another lap at over 108mph gave Collister a lead of 35.95s from Faragher at the end of the second lap; with Yorkshire’s James Neesom retaining third. That remained the top three at the end of the third lap, with the trio well ahead of Durham’s Peter Minns in fourth.
Collister clocked a lap record for the Newcomers B Class of 110.159mph on the fourth lap to win the race by 39.24s from Faragher, with Neesom 1m 41.8s adrift in third. This victory gave the prolific Martin Bullock Manxsport team their thirtieth Manx Grand Prix race win; the event would much the poorer without Martin’s generous support. The real star of this show was Ballaugh’s Chris Mitchell. Chris lost the use of his left arm in a road accident. Undeterred, he began racing on specially adapted machines. He lapped at 100.271mph on his final lap to secure a replica; finishing 11th at an average of 99.134mph; a proper sporting hero.
Pre-race favourite, Irishman Ben Rea dominated the Newcomers C race. He led at the first check point and continued to pull away from his pursuers as the race progressed. He was neat and fast through Schoolhouse and looked to have something in hand, if needed. He won by 84.2s, at an average speed 102.643. Fellow Irishman David Howard, who was second at the end of the second lap, retired on the third lap. This allowed Richard Wilson from Nelson to move into the runners up position. He finished in a time of 1:29.47.48. Scotland’s Derek Wilson took the final podium place with a race time of 1:36.57.98. With few starters and just three finishers, this class seems to have run its course; perhaps 250cc singles may attract more entrants.
Newcomers’ A Race
1. Christopher Dixon 600 Yamaha 112.511mph
2. Connor Behan 636 Kawasaki 111.981mph
3. Marc Livesey 600 Yamaha 111.693mph
Newcomers’ B Race
1. Callum Collister 650 Kawasaki 108.189mph
2. Joe Faragher 650 Kawasaki 107.350mph
3. James Neesom 650 Kawasaki 105.232mph
Newcomers’ C Race
1. Ben Rea 400 Honda 102.643mph
2. Richard Wilson 400 Yamaha 100.847mph
3. Derek Wilson 400 Kawasaki 93.385mph