The story of the Classic Lightweight TT was always going to be about Bruce Anstey. His brave fight to overcome cancer again is inspiring. His return to the Mountain Course will become legendary; this race was one of those events that will never be forgotten by those fortunate enough to have been trackside to witness it. Everyone loves Bruce and everyone wanted him to win; but the Mountain Course does yield wins easily; they have to be won the hard way.
In perfect conditions Bruce’s Millenco Padgett’s teammate Davey Todd had the honour of starting proceedings. Davey is a novice on two stroke machines so seemed unlikely to take the laurels. At Glen Helen on lap 1, the practice form book was being adhered to; Anstey had a lead of 5s from 19 years old James (Jim) Hind on his DTR prepared Yamaha. Todd was just 0.5s behind in third; Dan Sayle on the comeback trail from last year’s accident held 4th. Ian Lougher and Rhys Hardisty completed the early leader board. At Ballaugh, Anstey had taken another 1.9s from Todd; who was now 2s ahead of Todd. Anstey’s lead was 11.5s as the bikes howled through Ramsey for the first time; with Hind 2.5 ahead of Todd on our watch. At the Bungalow, Anstey had increased his advantage to 16s.
A lap at 117.053mph gave Anstey a lead of 17.6s as the riders came into the pits to top up the tanks for the final two laps. He had a rapid pit stop that gave him a 33s advantage as he left pit lane. For Hind the stop was a disaster; first the filler cap would not go back in and then, in his haste to rejoin the fray, he exceeded the pit lane limit and was hit with a 30s penalty. To my simple mind this penalty is far too high for a minor infringement; riders have had much less for ignoring waved yellow flags; now that is a serious infringement.
The full effect of the stops was shown at Glen Helen where Anstey led from Todd by 41.7s. Ian Lougher, a past 250cc TT winner and lap record holder was 3rd, 8s down on Todd. Jamie Coward, Mark Herbertson and Dan Sayle completed the leader board. Hind was 7th and on a mission. Anstey edged further ahead and led by 51.2s as they accelerated away from Ramsey for the second time. Hind in 7th place was flying; head down and front wheel up as he flashed by us; he was now just 2s down on Sayle. At the Bungalow, he had taken 6th place and was closing on Herbertson rapidly.
Starting the final lap, Anstey led by 57.4s and could now start to short shift to save the motor. The lead was 59s at Glen Helen; where Hind was up to 4th, 6.7s down on Lougher. There were huge cheers in Ramsey as Bruce came into view; surely the greatest sporting comeback since Nikki Lauda’s would get its just reward. Hind continued to be the fastest man on track; he had cut Lougher’s advantage over him to just 3.4s. Everyone listened intently to the commentary; Bruce reached the Bungalow safely with a lead of 61s. Behind him, Hind had moved into a podium place 1s ahead of Lougher. Huge relief was evident when Bruce reached Cronk ny Mona; little over a mile to go; surely it was his race. Then; after what seemed an age; he came into the view of the crowd on the Grandstand and to massive cheers he crossed the line to win; simply amazing; sometimes the really good guys get their just rewards. Todd duly took second and Hind took third after a final lap of 116.601mph; this young man is a star in the making. Lougher, Coward and Hardisty filled the lower leader board places.
In the winners’ enclosure after the race, an emotional Anstey paid tribute to the Padgetts team: “It’s awesome to win. I can’t believe it. Everyone – the team, Clive (Padgett), my family have just been awesome. I was right in the zone but on the last lap I was really nervous and just short shifted – I was not trying to go fast – just get it to the end. The last two years have been really tough. If it wasn’t for Anny (his partner) I wouldn’t be here.”
This may not have been a great race in itself; but it was the most emotional since Mike Hailwood’s comeback victory in 1978 and a real privilege to witness. Thank you for the memory Bruce.
Dunlop Lightweight Classic
- Bruce Anstey Milencco Padgett’s Honda 115.515mph
- Davey Todd Milenco Padgett’s Honda 113.260mph
- James Hind Yamaha 112.961mph
- Ian Lougher Laylaw Yamaha 112.636mph
- Jamie Coward Binch Yamaha 112.119mph
- Charles Rhys Hardisty Kaymac Yamaha 111.476mph