It was a huge relief when tonight’s practice session for the Classic TT and Manx Grand Prix started on time. Saturday’s session was cut to just the speed controlled lap for newcomers by a combination of having to move some marshals and then a very heavy shower. Sunday’s contingency session was scrapped early in the morning because of a lack of enough marshals to cover all points.
The Classic Superbikes, Classic Lightweights, the MGP Junior and Senior machines were first out on the TT Mountain Course. It was a very busy session with everyone desperate to take advantage of the decent conditions. Senior TT winner, Dean Harrison, who has won the last two RST Classic TT Superbike Races, was first away on the Silicone Engineering Kawasaki with Michael Rutter alongside him on the Team Winfield Yamaha. They were followed ten seconds later by James Hillier on the Oxford Products Ducati and Jamie Coward on the Prez Racing Kawasaki. Harrison was well clear on the road at Sulby Bridge where he went through in fine style with the front wheel airborne as he powered away towards Ginger Hall. Next through were Rutter and Jamie Coward; followed closely by Gary Johnson (York Suzuki) and James Hillier (Oxford Ducati).
Rain had fallen before the roads closed on the section from the 33rd to the finish, but the cautionary lack of adhesion flags didn’t seem to have much effect on lap times. Harrison’s standing start lap was the fastest of the session at 123.42mph. This was despite having a loose exhaust that caused him to pit and change to his Lightweight Laylaw Yamaha.
After the session Harrison talked about the challenge of switching from his BSB Superbike:
“I’ve come straight from Cadwell and BSB to the Classic TT. The ZXR isn’t such a big jump but riding the 250 is chalk and cheese. I’ve not got much experience of the two-stroke but you’ve got to respect the little thing because it will bite you.”
Ian Lougher was the first of the Lightweight class to reach Sulby; he was neat and fast on his Yamaha. The most heartening sight of the night was that of Bruce Anstey on the Padgett’s Honda; he gave us a nice wheelie as he went past just ahead of MGP riders Lee Hembury and James Reveley. It was as if he had never been away; a real privilege to watch. He duly proved that he had lost none of his racing edge as he set the fastest lap of the night in the class at 116.277mph. Dean was second despite being unfamiliar with the Yamaha; he lapped at 114.280mph; with Ian Lougher third quickest at 112.586mph. It was also great to see Dan Sayle back on the Mountain Course after last year’s big accident; he was fifth quickest at 109.897mph.
After the lap Bruce Anstey said: “It was great to get out and on the second lap things clicked and it felt like normal and as though I’d never been away.”
Back in the paddock, an elated Milenco by Padgetts Motorcycles team boss Clive Padgett said:
“I’m just over the moon. We said to Bruce before the lap if you’re not feeling it we’ll pick you up at Ballacraine. He’s loving life – it’s incredible. He was smiling from the off and all the fans are so pleased to see him back and we’ve had so many great comments.”
Lichtenstein based rider Horst Saiger; last year’s runner up; gave us good entertainment at Sulby as he wrestled with his Kawasaki Superbike. He opened with an average speed of 118mph and then improved this to 122.87mph – the second fastest on the night. Derek Sheils (Greenall Kawasaki) and Jamie Coward (Prez Kawasaki) both posted 118mph+ opening laps. Coward upped his pace on the second lap to record 120.70mph; this put him third on the overall Superbike leader board.
In the concurrent Manx Grand Prix session it was very close at the top of the leader board; with the top seven all lapping at over 116mph. The best lap of the night was set by Stephen Parsons on the People’s Bike Kawasaki. Nathan Harrison (Quayside Honda) was second at 117.871mph; James Hind (Yamaha) was third at 116.906mph.
The second session for the other classes; apart from the newcomers fired into life shortly after 7.10pm with Team Winfield rider John McGuinness on the twin-cylinder Paton and Ripley Land Racing’s Michael Rutter on the single-cylinder Matchless jostling for position alongside each other on the start line.
However, shortly after the second session began, it was red flagged due to an incident at the Black Hut. The rider concerned was taken by helicopter to Nobles Hospital with a reported leg injury. The riders stopped out on the track were brought back to the Grandstand in the course direction under the control of the Travelling Marshals.
Due to the lost time; with the light fading rapidly and rain approaching, this session and that scheduled for the Newcomers was cancelled.
Roads are due to close for Wednesday’s session at 18.00, with Tuesday’s schedule being replicated.