The Senior Race provided a fitting finale to the 2019 Manx Grand Prix meeting. The fact that the race went ahead proved that Clerk of the Course Gary Thompson was 100% correct in making the brave decision to bring racing forward by one day. The roads remained perfectly dry; but the riders had to contend with a strong wind. The race was essentially a re-run of the Junior Race; but with a gaggle of 750cc machines added to the mix. In recent years the newer 600cc machines have dominated.
Stephen Procter had the honour of being first to race away towards Bray Hill. Stephen Parsons was next; then Daniel Ingham on the first of the 750cc machines. As for the Junior Race, James Hind was moved forward to number 4 and Nathan Harrison to number 6. Hind gave repeat performance; he was fastest over the first sector to Glen Helen and led by 0.475s as he crossed the timing beam. Parsons was second and Harrison; who had said before the start that he was out for a tour around; held third place 1.5s down to Parsons. Brad Vicars, Darryl Tweed and Andrew Fisher completed the nascent leader board.
At Ballaugh Bridge, Hind did not arrive when expected; Parsons was the new race leader by 2.7s from Harrison; who was just 1s ahead of Vicars. Parsons had increased his advantage to 2.5s as he took the sweeping right hander that is Cruickshanks Corner; now much less bumpy than in previous years. Harrison had 3.5s in hand over Vicars; Tweed, Ingham and Fisher completed the top six as they started the mountain climb for the first time. Parsons added 1s to his lead on the mountain climb; whilst Harrison increased his advantage over Vicars by the same amount. A superb opening lap at 121.120mph gave Parsons a lead of 3.576s as he went past the Grandstand flat out to begin the second of the four laps. Harrison lapped at 120.735mph to be 8.18s ahead of vicars (119.863mph). Vicars, Tweed and Ingham filled the leader board places.
At Glen Helen on lap 2, Parsons had pushed his lead out to 5.5s and Harrison on turn was now 10s ahead of Tweed, who was just 0.1s ahead of Vicars. At Ballaugh, the lead was 6.9s and as they charged between the walls at Cruickshanks for the second time Parsons had increased it to 6.9s. Harrison was 11s ahead Vicars who had eased Tweed out of third by 1s. Ingham and Fisher continued to hold fifth and sixth. Harrison clawed back 0.56s on the climb to the Bungalow and a further 1s on the descent of the mountain. After a lap at 121.010mph, Parson led by 5.896s coming into the pits for the fuel stop. Harrison had lapped at 120.760mph and Tweed in third had lapped at 120.124mph. As in the Junior Race, Harrison’s pit crew were rapid; their slick routine out Nathan out with a deficit of just 0.096s; effectively this was now a dead heat and a two lap dash for supremacy.
They matched each other on the 9 miles to Glen Helen; where the lead for Procter was 0.059s. They had pulled well away from Vicars; who was 23s in arrears. He in turn had 8s in hand over Tweed who had Ingham breathing down his neck. The lead was identical at Ballaugh: then the momentum started to move in favour of the local star. As he reached Ramsey for the third time Harrison was ahead for the first time; by 0.425s and his sector times were purple; he was upping the ante. He was rapid on the mountain climb to the Bungalow, where his lead had increased to 3s. Parsons was 23s ahead of Vicars; who was now edging steadily away from Tweed.
Starting the final lap Harrison had an advantage of 6.41s over Parsons; significant but not decisive; there was still work to be done. His lead was 6.5s at Glen Helen; at Ballaugh it was 7.5s and at Ramsey it had grown to . It was hugely impressive watching the leading contenders hurtle between the walls around the rising right hand bend; the sector times indicating that Harrison was set lap at over 122mph; some going in the by now gale force wind.
Crossing the Bungalow tram lines for the final time Harrison was 14s clear of Parsons and firmly on course to complete the Junior and Senior double. At the final timing point of Cronk ny Mona, less than 2 miles from the finish, his lead was 17s; game; set and match. His last lap was the best of the race at 122.094mph and it gave him victory by 17.836s from Parsons whose last lap was at 120.853mph. Vicars found his rhythm on the last lap raising his personal best to an impressive 121.193mph. Ingham and Procter both lapped at over the 120mph barrier on that rapid final lap. Best newcomer in the race was Sam Mousley in 19th; his fastest lap was set at 116.013mph.
Harrison said that he switched to race mode when his crew was so rapid with the pit stop routine and put him out level with Parsons. Once in full race mode he was able to up his pace and eke out his winning margin. He was fulsome in his praise for his sponsors and helpers and also thanked the marshals, without whom none of us could enjoy the great spectacle that is road racing. Parsons was happy to secure another second place as his rear shocker was going soft in the latter stages. Brad Vicars; another who has made a remarkable recovery from serious injury, was delighted to have secured his podium place and to have lapped at over 121mph.
Senior Manx Grand Prix
- Nathan Harrison Quayside Honda 119.933mph
- Stephen Parsons People’s Bike Kawasaki 119.462mph
- Brad Vicars VRS Honda 118.940mph
- Darryl Tweed Tweed Racing Honda 118.300mph
- Daniel Ingham Strangford Suzuki 118.248mph
- Steven Procter Stagefreight Yamaha 117.608mph
That brought the curtain down on road racing for the year in the Isle of Man. A year marked by the worst TT and MGP weather in living memory; weather that must have driven Gary Thompson to the edge of insanity; how he steered us through it; he alone will know. We enjoyed some great racing in all of the meetings; some new stars emerged; whose skills we hope to admire for many years to come. Then there is the dark side of the sport; sadly we suffered the tragic loss of two fine young men; they will never be forgotten. We have the autumn and winter in which to recall and reflect upon, what has happened. No doubt when the evenings begin to lighten next spring, we shall all be itching for the start of the next season; once it is in your blood road racing never leaves you.