Technical issues have delayed the posting of this report; apologies for that.
The first race day of the 2019 Festival of Motorcycling was simply manic. Firstly we had what must be the busiest practice session seen of the course. It was non-stop action with over 160 machines of all types on the circuit. When that was over we were treated the unexpected and uplifting sight of Bruce Anstey riding a demonstration alp on the fabulous RVC Honda V4. At Parliament Square lumps in the throat were the order of the day; he was given a huge cheer as he went through on the sweet sounding machine.
Next the Classic TT racing began with the Bennetts Senior Classic. The lack of practice time meant that there were a large number of non-starters including Davo Johnson and Horst Saiger. This was compounded by the early retirement of Davey Todd, Bill Swallow, Ian Lougher, Michael Rutter and Olie Linsdell. For John McGuinness there were no problems; he led from start to finish on the Winfield Paton; he was a hugely popular winner on his return to racing on the Isle of Man two year s after winning the same race on the same machine.
After the long hard to recovery following his big accident at last year’s NW200 John told the audience how special it was to return to winning ways on the Mountain Course.
“I never ever thought I’d be able to pull back in to this winner’s enclosure here, but I’ve worked really hard and it feels very special. The Paton was great – it never missed a beat. I so, so enjoyed that. It’s an amazing feeling and we had no problems from the drop of the flag, but it was hard work. It takes it out of you after all the barbecues and pies.”
McGuinness, starting at number 1, was the first rider to reach Glen Helen where had opened a lead of 8.5s over Maria “Elvis” Costello riding the beautiful Team Beugger Paton. Alan Oversby was third 1s down on Maria; with Jamie Coward and Chris Swallow less than 2s further back.
Oversby soon joined the early retirements’ list at Barregarrow. At Ballaugh, Coward was second 1s ahead of Costello; but 18.5s down on the flying McGuinness. McGuinness had stretched his lead to 24.9s as he swept through May Hill for the first time. Coward had increased his advantage over Maria to 4.5s; Swallow was still very much in contention just 1.5s down on Maria.
McGuinness built his lead over the mountain; his lap at 110.510mph gave him a lead of 38.3s. Maria used the power of her Paton to advantage on the mountain; she was just 1.8s behind Coward after completing her lap at 107.014mph. It was a close battle for third; Swallow was 3s adrift of Maria with Lee Johnston just 1.9s further back.
McGuinness continued imperiously; he led by 46 seconds by Glen Helen on the second lap; behind him there was a real fight going on for the podium places. Maria held second at Glen Helen by 0.2s from Coward. At May Hill our watch suggested that she had dropped to fourth behind Coward and Lee Johnston at Ramsey, but she was only 0.5s down the Northern Ireland rider and 10s ahead of Swallow.
John McGuinness’s second lap of 110.676mph gave him a lead of 71.1s over Coward. Coward’s lap at 107.791mph left him 2.3s ahead of Johnston who had lapped at 108.189mph. Maria’s lap at 107.422mph saw her sitting 3.8s behind Johnston. Swallow and Michael Russell completed the leader board.
Fans in the Grandstand seats could clearly hear Costello’s Paton misfiring as she went past the grandstand at the end of the second lap and as the problem worsened she dropped increasing amounts of time on her third lap. Lee Johnston was the man on the move and had moved into second place by Glen Helen with Costello dropping to fifth, now almost five seconds behind Swallow. At May Hill Johnston had eked out an advantage of 2.3s over Coward as they powered away to tackle the mountain.
After a lap at 110.625mph, McGuinness led by 92.8s as he and Johnston came into the pits to refuel. Coward did not need to refuel so moved back into second position. Costello also went into the pits at the end of the third lap but was forced to retire. She received an ovation for her efforts from the crowd. Her demise promoted Michael Russell on the Izzard Racing Norton into fifth place. At Glen Helen McGuinness led by 48s from Coward; who was 37s ahead of Swallow. Johnston was 14s down on Swallow but on a charge as he tried to grab the final podium place. By Ramsey the flying Johnston had cut the gap to just 3.7s. A rapid trip across the mountain allowed him to snatch the podium place by 4s.
At the front an untroubled McGuinness duly clinched his second Bennetts Senior Classic TT win with a last lap of 105.409mph that gave him a winning margin of ove73.1s over Coward whose last lap was at 107.153mph.
The only incident in the race involved Mick Moreton who came off his Paton at Handleys on the opening lap of the race; thankfully he was unhurt.
Bennetts Senior Classic TT
- John McGuinness Winfield Paton 109.258mph
- Jamie Coward Craven Manx 107.676mph
- Lee Johnston Davies Honda 107.132mph
- Chris Swallow Linsdell Enfield 107.048mph
- Michael Russell Izzard Norton 104.477mph
- Danny Webb Dunnell Norton 102.325mph
Next up was Jon McGuinness; resplendent on replica leathers and helmet; riding a tribute lap on the 1978 race winning Ducati of the incomparable Mike Hailwood. It made a fine sight and sounded wonderful. Perhaps we will have John racing one next year; now that would be special.
Then it was time for the second race of the day; after which race winner Lee Johnston paid tribute to Bruce Anstey. Lee took the laurels after winning a thrilling Dunlop Lightweight Classic TT Race after a close battle with Adam McClean. The Northern Ireland rider replaced Anstey on the Padgetts Racing Honda upon which the New Zealander won the corresponding race last year.
“I’d like to thank Bruce for letting me ride the bike. He’s a hero of mine and it’s an absolute privilege. I really enjoyed it,” he said in the winner’s enclosure after the race. “The team told me to try and win at the slowest possible pace. Clive Padgett has made my childhood dream come true.”
This race; like the preceding Senior Race saw the field reduced by a high number of non-starters; including the late withdrawals of Michael Rutter and Phil Harvey. Indeed some riders had advocated the race being postponed or even abandoned because of the severe lack of practice time. Dan Cooper on the Turner Racing Yamaha was first away from the start line at Glencrutchery road but after just over 3 miles he became the first retirement at Crosby Crossroads.
Next away were Dean Harrison on the Laylaw Racing Yamaha, Adam McLean, who was the fastest qualifier with a time set on the opening night on the Binch Racing Yamaha and Ian Lougher, Harrison’s Laylaw Racing teammate.
McLean was first to Glen Helen, less than a second ahead of Lougher with Lee Johnston, who started from his traditional grid position of 13, riding the Padgetts Racing Honda, completing the top three a further five seconds back. Harrison was less than a second behind Johnston with Sweeney holding fifth but already fifteen seconds behind the race leader. Johnston’s position was a little false because an accident at Ballaspur meant that he had to slow markedly for the waved yellow flags.
At Ballaugh, McLead led on the road and by 2s from Lougher on the watches. Johnston was 3s down on Lougher and was 5.9s ahead of Harrison. At White Gates McLean swept through in fine style and led by 4s from Lougher; Johnston was third but was just 0.4s down on Lougher and closing fast. By the Bungalow Johnston had taken second by 3.5s from Lougher.
That remained the order at the end of the opening lap with McLean’s 116.329mph giving him a 4s lead from Johnston who lapped 115.915mph with Lougher 115.589mph in third 3sback. Harrison 113.371mph and Michael “Micko” Sweeney 112.461mph completed the top five at the end of the opening lap.
Johnston continued his charge and had cut McLean’s lead to less than 1sat Glen Helen and had put 10.9s between himself and Lougher in third; with Harrison dropping back almost half a minute behind his teammate. Johnston had grabbed a lead of 1.8s at Ballaugh and had extended the lead to 3.2s at White Gates; with Lougher holding third; Harrison and Sweeney completed the top five.
Coming in to the pits at the end of the second lap, Johnston’s 117.463 gave him a 1.7s lead from McLean who lapped at 116.870mph. The pit stops had little effect; McLean gained 0.4s from Johnston. The big loser was Lougher who dropped 31s due to a problematic stop. Sweeney ran out of fuel; promoting Gary Vines; but that was short lived as he too joined the list of retirees.
At Glen Helen on lap 3 it could not have been closer; Johnston led by just 0.1s, Lougher was still third; but now just 18s ahead of Harrison. Joey Thompson on the John Chapman Racing Honda was 5th.
Johnston upped the pace after Glen Helen; he led by 4.6s at Ballaugh; 7.1at White gates and by 9s at The Bungalow. His third lap of 111.870mph – including the pit stop gave him a lead of almost ten seconds over McLean, who lapped at 111.181mph. The Laylaw Racing pair maintained their third and fourth places with Thompson holding fifth and Paul Owen sixth.
Johnston pulled away steadily on the final lap; his lap 117.919mph was 20s faster that McLean’s 115.902mph. This allowed him to take the chequered flag 29.3s ahead of McLean. Lougher’s last lap of 117.439mph clinched the final podium place. Harrison, Joey Thompson and Rikki McGovern completed the leader board; Owen having retired in Ramsey.
Eight times TT winner and three times MGP winner Dan Sayle was the rider involved in the accident at Ballaspur. He was taken by Airmed to Nobles Hospital where his condition was described as serious but stable. We hope that Dan will be able to make a full recovery from his injuries.
Dunlop Lightweight Classic TT
- Lee Johnston Padgetts Honda 115.742mph
- Adam McLean Binch Yamaha 115.025mph
- Ian Lougher LayLaw Yamaha 113.989mph
- Dean Harrison LayLaw Yamaha 112.111mph
- Joey Thompson Chapman Honda 110.201mph
- Rikki McGovern McGill Honda 105.038mph