After a delay of 90 minutes to allow for the roads to dry the Senior Manx grand Prix fired into life. The effects of heavy overnight continued to be seen with warning flags for wet patches being shown at many locations; especially where trees are allowed to overhang the track. That aside conditions were quite good; with the sun breaking through fair weather cloud from time to time.
The race was well worth the wait; it turned out to be a real classic; with one of the closest finishes in the history of the event. It turned out to be close to the perfect inverse of the Junior Race; with Weeden snatching victory on the last lap and setting the fastest lap of the race in doing so; his margin of victory just 0.674s; or as he said, just one missed gear.
Speaking in the winner’s enclosure at the end of the race an elated Weeden said:
“Thanks for everyone that helped me. This means so much to me. I knew I was nine seconds down on the last lap and thought I’d just got to make the most of it so I loosened up and put everything in to it. After Wednesday I thought this is my time now. I had a little slide at Keppel Gate but got myself together and pulled my finger out on the last lap.”
Andrew Dudgeon later revealed that he had hit a bird whilst travelling at 150 mph through Ballagarey (better known as Ballascarey) and had been held up by backmarkers on the last lap; but gave full credit to Weeden on his win:
“I came into a couple of backmarkers on the last lap but I don’t want to take anything away from Tom who rode brilliantly. I was pushing on and made a couple of mistakes on the last lap but I’m happy with three podiums.”
Former Senior MGP Race winner Tom Dickie was on the start line as guest of honour of the Manx Motorcycle Club, 50 years after he won the race for the last race of the 2016 IMGold Manx Grand Prix meeting.
Andrew Dudgeon; winner of the Junior Race took over the number 1 plate from the injured Andrew Farrell, who was at the Grandstand to watch proceedings. Dudgeon was first to arrow away towards the drop down Bray Hill on the Slick Performance Suzuki. Mike Moulai was second on the Collins Kawasaki; with Newcomers A winner Mike Evans promoted up to number 3. Tom Weeden was fourth away on his Triumph. Supertwins winner Jamie Hodson had to fit a new engine to his mount yesterday; but to no avail; he was forced to retire at the end of his second lap.
Despite road conditions not being ideal the riders lost no time in reaching Glen Helen. Dudgeon was first to break the timing beam but Tom Weeden was just over 2 seconds up on Dudgeon at the first timing point. Joe Ackroyd, who was reported to have had some issues on the start line with his tyre warmers, had clearly been unaffected by them because he slotted into second place at Glen Helen, 0.5s behind Weeden from a starting position of 17th. Michael Evans was well placed in fourth, just 1s behind Dudgeon, and was leading the ‘Evans family’ dust up by 1s from Barry Lee; who had Gareth just 0.1s back from him.
At Ballaugh, Dudgeon was up to second place 1.3s behind Weeden; with Akroyd third a mere 0.5s down on Dudgeon. Dudgeon led the cavalry charge into his home town of Ramsey. Moulai was next and he had Weeden just 100m behind him; their 20s starting interval almost wiped out. There was some excellent action for the spectators; none more so than when Jamie Hodson came into Parliament Square too hot and ran off the track, around the marshals’ point and rejoined. Dudgeon had been quickest on the bumpy run into Ramsey and had cut the deficit to 0.55s on our watch; Joe Ackroyd was 1.65s back in third. Richard Wilson, from Lancashire, was fourth, 7.3s down on the leader; he was in turn 3.4s ahead of Barry Lee Evans; with Gareth Evans in fifth, just 0.5s down on his namesake.
Sector times on the mountain section were noticeably slower than in the Junior Race, due to numerous damp patches. Dudgeon helped by his local knowledge whittled away at the lead and with the help of another quick burst from Cronk ny Mona to the Grandstand he was the new race leader as he crossed the line and fired the Suzuki towards Bray Hill. His opening lap of 118.960mph; amazing in the conditions; gave him a lead of 1.009s over Weeden who lapped at 118.847mph with Akroyd starting to be dropped; 8.7s back from Weeden after a lap at 117.953mph completing the podium positions. Wilson’s lap at 117.416mph kept him in fourth, 3.4s ahead of Barry Lee Evans – 117.071mph, who was 5.5s ahead of new sixth placed rider, Davey Lambert.
The leading pair Dudgeon and Weeden continued ease away from the chasing pack. Dudgeon led by 2s at Glen Helen on the second lap, with Weeden 8.8s ahead of Akroyd. Wilson remained in fourth; Barry Lee Evans was fifth and Gareth Evans sixth. At Ballaugh, Dudgeon had increased his advantage to 3.2s. At Ramsey, were first and second on the road and in the race. Dudgeon led by 3.8s; with Akroyd now 7.8s down on Weeden. At the Bungalow Weeden had taken 1.1s from Dudgeon’s lead; however another rapid final sector by Dudgeon saw him going into the pits with a lead of 7.9s. Dudgeon’s lap was at 119.577mph; whilst Weeden lapped at 118.866mph.Ackroyd’s second lap of 118.803mph left him 9.3s down on Weeden; but 10.35s ahead of Barry Lee Evans. Wilson was fifth; just 0.109s behind Evans; Gareth Evans continued to hold sixth. For Michael Evans the race was run; he parked the machine in the pits.
Dudgeon had a ‘slick’ refuelling stop and gained almost two seconds on Weeden in the pits. As they swept through Glen Helen for the third time Dudgeon led by 9.2s; with Akroyd now 15s adrift of Weeden. Wilson, Barry Lee Evans and Moulai completed the leader board. The leading two matched blows as they progressed; the lead was 9s at Ballaugh; 8.9s at Ramsey 8.9s and 9.1s at the end of the lap.
Dudgeon’s third lap was 115.066mph; marginally better than Weeden’s 114.94mph. Ackroyd was comfortable in third place, 21 seconds back on the leading pair but 22 seconds ahead of fourth placed man Wilson with Barry Lee Evans and Moulai completing the leader board.
Dudgeon seemed to have the race won with a gap of 9.7 seconds at Glen Helen and thoughts were turning to the list of riders who have achieved the Junior Senior double; such as Andrew Brady, Craig Atkinson, Ricky Mitchell, Brian Venables etc, back to Eric Lea in 1929. Then some doubts began to gnaw at us: Weeden clawed back three seconds by Ballaugh and by Ramsey the gap was down to 3.5 seconds. Weeden was again fast on the mountain climb and had nudged fractionally into the lead by the Bungalow, but only by a mere 0.178s; which he extended to 0.8 by Cronk Ny Mona.
Dudgeon had consistently been the fastest rider on the run from Cronk ny Mona to the Grandstand; so all was not lost for his legion of supporters. He came through the finish line having set his best lap of the race at 120.062mph; for a race average speed of 118.383mph. All eyes were now fixed firmly on the clock to see if Weeden could finish within thirty seconds and take the win. After what seemed an eternity, he duly crossed the line, having set the best lap of the race at 121.109mph for an overall race average speed of 118.400mph to win by 0.674s. Akroyd took the final podium place at an average speed of 117.551mph. Wilson -116.458mph, Moulai – 116.129mph and Royce Rowe – 115.968mph completed the final leader board. Austrian Julian Trummer was the highest placed newcomer in 13th place at 114.439mph.