Thursday evening was beautiful, the sun was shining out of a clear blue sky. It was so still that the crowd at The Bungalow could hear the machines powering away from the Grandstand in Douglas. They waited in expectation in the warm evening sunshine. John McGuinness, but he only reached Quarterbridge before retiring; due to the electrical gremlins that have dogged the machine this week. Starting partner John Barton had no such problems with his 750 Kawasaki; he was well clear of second man Steve Mercer (Classic Yamaha Team 750). Then it was fast and furious action as the sounds of the classic machines echoed around the Laxey and Sulby valleys
Other retirements on the opening lap of the session included Michael Dunlop, riding the MD Racing Norton, while Mark Parrett and James Hillier both pulled in at Crosby Village, handy for the popular public house.
John Barton on the wemoto.com Kawasaki was first back to the grandstand with a lap of 114.058mph, his fastest of the week in the Motorsport Merchandise Formula 1 Class with Steve Mercer also posting his fastest lap of the week with 116.493mph, a speed he then improved on his second lap to 117.556mph.
Mercer’s time was the fastest of the evening but others to show their hand included his Yamaha Classic Racing team teammate Mark Miller with 113.151mph and Ryan Kneen, who made his TT debut earlier this year, who clocked 115.212mph on the DMR Yamaha on his second lap of the evening and looked very impressive through the s bend at The Bungalow.
In the Motorsport Merchandise Formula 2 Class, James Cowton, the 2012 Newcomer C MGP Race winner, clocked a very credible 110.301mph, other notables were Shaun Anderson 105.608mph and Chris Barrett 102.235mph; but the trio were behind Chris Palmer who again finished top of the class with 110.818mph.
Dean Harrison continued his good form in the Formula Classic Class, powering his BSA to 106.758mph, the fastest time of both the evening and the week in that class with Gavin Lupton 100.906mph the only other rider to break 100mph. The Bradford based racer has undoubtedly established himself as one of the leading road racers on the back of his performances at the TT, Southern 100, Scarborough and Ulster Grand Prix. Lupton was to blot his copy book on the first lap of the MGP session by losing the front end of his ex Dennis Booth GSXR and sliding to rest on the boggy bank alongside the track; neither bike nor rider suffered any damage.
In the 500cc Class, with McGuinness experiencing problems, Olie Linsdell can take confidence from another 110+mph lap under his belt, 110.442mph with Bruce Anstey flying on the beautifully prepared McIntosh Racing/Mobil 1 Norton to record his fastest lap of the week 107.927mph from Palmer 106.659mph riding the Richard Shelton Racing Seeley and Cameron Donald on the Ripley Land Racing Matchless who also posted his fastest lap of the week with 106.040mph.
The first session finished at 19.00 but with a number of Motorsport Merchandise Formula 1 riders including Conor Cummins looking to use the MGP session, it was red flagged following four near simultaneous incidents at Ballahutchin, Kerrowmoar, Ramsey Hairpin and the Bungalow. Thankfully, the injuries sustained by the riders involved were reported to be not serious. The loss of practice time in conditions ideal, apart from the bright sunshine on the run to Ballacraine and from Gooseneck to the Mountain Box was of concern to the riders, especially the newcomers and those who have encountered mechanical problems. Those concerns were multiplied when thick mist, rain and poor forecast led to Friday’s session being called off.
With the star riders for the parade laps now on the island the atmosphere is building to a crescendo. It is wonderful to be able to meet stars such as former World Champions Freddie Spencer, Steve Baker, Phil Read, Kel Carruthers and the marvellous man who is Pat Hennen. The event at Jurby on Sunday promises to be unforgettable and possibly unrepeatable; be there: or regret it for ever.