Cook and Majola lead Senior and Junior MGP speeds. Dunlop heads Classic Superbikes; McGuinness the Senior Classics and Lougher the lightweights

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The first practice session for the Centenary Manx Grand Prix presented riders with the challenge of some damp spots; most noticeably in the Ramsey hairpin to Waterworks section that never sees the sunlight. There was also a strong wind to contend with; especially on the run from Ramsey to Creg ny Baa. The roads were dry from Ramsey to kirk Michael; our vantage point for the session. It is noteworthy that the area from the Kella Road in Sulby to 100m from Sulby Bridge is now a prohibited area. The obvious risk posed has been recognised at last; shame that it took an incident elsewhere to knock the risk assessors out of their lethargy.

The session began with the speed controlled lap for the large number of newcomers. The first group was, I believe, led by former racer John Barton. It included rising young local stars Marcus Simpson and Joe Yeardsley. Once that lap was completed the Senior MGP and Classic Superbike riders were allowed out to begin their preparation in earnest. With two race fields on track the session was busy, giving some fine action for the few spectators who gathered to watch. First to reach us was Michael Dunlop on the Team Classic Suzuki. The handling did not look perfect; but Michael was nonetheless fairly rapid. Brian McCormack was next on the Greenall Kawasaki; then it was Nathan Harrison on the lovely looking Ashcourt Racing RC45. After last year’s winner Rob Hodson (Greenall Kawasaki); we had Cowan Racing teammates Davo Johnson and Craig Neve circulating together. Next through was James Hillier on the Steadplan Kawasaki that he has taken over from the injured Jamie Coward. Then a new sight; Dean Harrison in red leathers, on the Key Racing Ducati 916. He was restricted on the revs that he could use and had only 5 gears; but was fast enough at Douglas Road Corner.

First of the MGP riders to reach us was Chris Cook on the Cowan Racing Kawasaki that found success last year with Stephen Smith. For many, he will start as favourite. The seeded riders for the Senior came through in quick succession; noted to be fast were Daniel Ingham, Jamie Williams, James Reveley, Victor Lopez and Andrew Fisher. The action continued to be very entertaining as riders from both classes streamed through. There was an accident at Ballagarey; that we now know to have caused the death of Gary Vines.  This tragic accident meant that riders were prevented from starting their second laps for about one hour. This allowed changes to be made to machines; notably by one M. Dunlop.

It was Michael Dunlop who led the field through after the restart; he was very rapid, and the machine looked more stable. It was no surprise to find him at the top of the leader board with his lap at 123.948mph. Yesterday’s times will be bettered as the week goes on; so whilst they are informative they are of little real relevance. Davo Johnson, Dean Harrison; Craig Neve; Rob Hodson and Derek Shiels all lapped at over 120mph; whilst Nathan Harrison was just below on the unfamiliar RC45. Chris Cook led the MGP riders on the road; closely followed by Sam Johnson, Victor Lopez and Jamie Williams. Amongst the newcomers; Joe Yeardsley and Marcus Simpson were bang on the ideal line and rapid. The speeds were headed by Williams and Cook; both over 117mph; with Victor Lopez and Daniel Ingham over 116mph. Joe Yeardsley topped the newcomers with a superb lap at 114.984mph.

Then it was the turn of the Junior (Supertwin); Lightweight and Senior Classic machines. These gave us some good action and plenty of variety in the machinery. The first to Kirk Michael was Dominic Herbertson on the Davies Motorsport Yamaha. Next was Mike Browne; on the Grantham Lodge Norton, rather than the Honda listed in the programme. Then it was the lovely Winfield Paton of John McGuinness; with Dean Harrison close behind on a Craven Manx; not the MV listed in the programme. The first Junior MGP riders to reach us were Lewis Arrowsmith (RAM Aprilia) and Andrea Majola (Mancini Paton). The first Lightweights were the evergreen Ian Lougher (LayLaw Yamaha) and Chris Moore (Outhwaite Yamaha). Samuel Mousley was noted as going well on the 700cc Yamaha; yet more variety in a class once a purely Kawasaki reserve. Marc Colvin was in mid pack; but very rapid on his RC Racing Kawasaki. We had one near miss when Steve Moody overtook on the outside and ended up in the marbles next to the kerb on the exit; thankfully he retained control and continued. After that it was an afternoon of fast, safe riding for the competitors. The leaders in the classes were: Junior MGP – Andrea Majola 113.277mph; Marc Colvin 112.210mph; Dan Ingham 111.459mph; newcomer Joe Yeardsley lapped at 110.330mph on his second lap. Senior Classic: John McGuinness 108.472mph, Dominic Herbertson 107.580mph, Dean Harrison 106.286mph. Lightweight MGP: Ian Lougher 112.635mph, Shaun Anderson 112.198mph, Paul Jordan 109.915mph.

Weather permitting; qualifying will continue this evening with roads closing at 18.00.