The Pre-TT Classic meeting gave us some excellent, record breaking action on the 4.25 miles of the Colas Billown Circuit. The weather forecast heavy showers stayed away until after the roads had re-opened after racing; except for a short one during the lunch break.
The day saw some serial winners adding to their tallies; some first winners and some excellent rides by newcomers to the meeting. It was breezy and still fairly chilly when the lights changed and the Lightweight Race began our day of racing. Jeff Ward; third for the last 3 years made the best start and led into our vantage point at Cross Four Ways on the first lap. The chasing pack was led by last year’s winner Mike Hose and Brian Mateer; second last year. Ward; rode superbly on a bike that never missed a beat and was never seriously challenged. He set the best lap of the race on his third lap and eventually won by 9.7s. Mateer managed to edge his way past Hose on the second lap and despite the best efforts of Hose he was able to pull away from the Ariel rider to take second place by 13.8s. Keith Shannon, Barry Davidson and Geoff Bates completed the final leader board.
Quine & Cubbon Lightweight Race
- Jeff Ward Carbutt Suzuki 81.571mph
- Brian Mateer Suzuki 80.877mph
- Mike Hose Ariel 79.902mph
The Junior Race was simply superb; following the pattern of the last decade and more. There was closing racing right through the field to keep the spectators on their toes. Alan Oversby was quickest to leave the lights; Hefyn Owen stalled on the line and was lucky not to be clipped by another rider. Oversby had a small advantage as the field streamed into Cross Four Ways for the first time. Jamie Coward and Dominic Herbertson led the chasing pack as they turned sharp right around the cottage on the inside of the corner. At the end of the lap the lead was officially 0.001s; about 18 inches. On lap 2 Coward led by inches at Cross Four Ways. At the end of the lap he led by 1.1s from Oversby with Herbertson 0.5s further back. We did not see Herbertson again; his challenge soon ended when the chain jumped the sprocket. The leaders were together again at Cross Four Ways on lap 3 and remained within touching distance until lap 5. Coward led coming into Cross Four Ways; Oversby was right behind but lost his chance of victory when the rear wheel slid from under him as he exited the corner. He was unhurt; but his race was over. This promoted Mike Hose to second and Bill Swallow to third; the latter having worked his way through after a sluggish start. Swallow’s machine was the quicker and he was able to make the pass on Hose coming into Cross Four Ways on the final lap and he held onto second by 0.25s. Coward was untroubled and completed a record breaking victory with 55s in hand. The only consolation for Oversby was that he continued to be the lap record holder; his best lap of 90.947mph was 0.004s quicker than Coward’s best. Oversby’s old lap and race records had stood since 2016. Steve Elliott, Edward Manley and Julian Tillotson filled out the leader board.
Friends Provident International Junior Race
- Jamie Coward Craven Honda 89.378mph
- Bill Swallow Honda K4 85.938mph
- Mike Hose Honda 85.922mph.
Alan Oversby was passed fit to ride in the next race the 850cc Race. The inside of the corner gives no view of the riders coming into the corner but does allow close up photography as the riders sweep around the corner and then power away. The noise is amazing; the commentary lost in it and photography is more challenging. This race gave us a battle that lasted from lights to flag with never more than 1s between the two main protagonists. Those two riders were 500 Honda mounted Alan Oversby and 850 Weslake mounted Mike Hose. The Honda was the more nimble; the Weslake, with more grunt, was the faster in a straight line. The lead changed hands several times as they swept between the walls of the beautiful but challenging circuit.
The pace was hot throughout; Oversby’s 2010 lap record remained intact; but the lap record was raised. At the end of laps of thrilling racing it was Oversby who prevailed by 0.2s. Impressive newcomer Dean Stimpson held third for over half of the race but was eventually overtaken by Dominic Herbertson on a Honda that he described as “fluffy” because it was so slow to pick up out of corners. Chris McGahan took 5th on the sweet sounding Hughes Honda; Ben Rea completed the leader board.
A D Hewitt 850cc Race
- Alan Oversby 500 Ireland Honda 93.867mph
- Mike Hose 730 Seeley Weslake 93.853mph
- Dominic Herbertson 500 Honda 90.901mph
The last race of the morning was the Geoff Duke Classic Junior. This was tinged with great sadness because it was won in each of the last 5 years by the late James Cowton. Gary Vines was quickest to react to the lights and led the race until Rhys Hardisty passed with some demon late breaking into Cross Four Ways. Jamie Coward was third and closely followed by Dean Stimpson. Hardisty was 50m ahead of Vines on lap 2; with Coward now close to his team mate. Barry Davidson passed Stimpson on the approach to our vantage point to hold 4th. Lap 3 saw Hardisty leading by 5m from Coward; they had started to pull clear of Vines; still a relative newcomer to Billown. The battle at the front saw the lead change hands several times; but neither could put in a decisive move. Hardisty led at Cross Four ways on lap 7 with Coward inches behind and we seemed set for a titanic last lap. It was not to be; the clutch on Coward’s machine began to fry and had to nurse the sick machine home to 5th place. Hardisty secured his first win at Billown; setting a new race record in the process. It is a victory that he richly deserves. Vines inherited second place with Davidson the final podium finisher. Stimpson took 4th; with the final leader board place being taken by Tom Snow.
Geoff Duke Post Classic Junior Race.
- Rhys Hardisty 250 Yamaha 97.304mph
- Gary Vines 250 Yamaha 94.911mph
- Barry Davidson 250 Yamaha 93.470mph
After the lunch break our vantage point changed to a favourite haunt; on the outside of Church Bends. The first race of the afternoon was the Singles Race; the usual curtain raiser for the meeting. This featured some close racing; most notably a dice amongst the three Welsh tenors, Bob, Meredydd and Hefyn Owen that lasted for most of the race.
Alan Oversby led into Church on lap 1 with Meredyyd Owen leading the closely packed chasing group. The riders were slightly tentative as the track still had not completely dried out following the lunchtime shower. Lap 2 saw the pace rise; with Oversby and Will Loder; riding his late father’s machine now several seconds clear of the Owen trio. Following a very poor start Bill Swallow was up to 7th. Lap 3 and the gaps at the front were larger; Oversby 3s ahead of Loder with the Owens falling back from him. Swallow made further progress but ultimately it was in vain due to mechanical failure. Oversby continued untroubled to secure his 14th win at the Pre-TT meeting. Loder was second and the private battle went the way of Meredydd Owen. Bob Owen. Hefyn Owen and Dave Matravers completed the final leader board.
The concurrent 250cc Race saw Keith Shannon take his 4th victory in an untroubled ride; he was 7th overall. Brian Nichol and Geoff Bates were the podium men in this class.
- E. C. Singles Race
- Alan Oversby 350 AJS 82.894mph
- Will Loder 350 Greeves 82.637mph
- Meredydd Owen 350 Seeley 7R 81.724mph
The next race was the Senior Race; basically a re-run of the 850cc Race but without the Weslakes and Triumph triples. The first two to charge over the rise into Church were Alan Oversby and Jamie Coward. They had already pulled a couple of seconds lead from Dean Stimpson and Dominic Herbertson. Ben Rea and Bill Swallow filled out the top 6. One the favourites to win; Mike Hose; was an early retirement at Billown Dip. Lap 2 saw the leading two continuing their private battle. Herbertson had passed Stimpson; Rea was in a lonely 5th; whilst behind them Swallow was being harassed but Meredydd Owen. Coward had a 50m lead on lap 3; the only other change had seen Swallow drop to 7th. The lead was reduced on lap 4; Oversby upping his pace to set the fastest lap of the race and a new class record at 94.595mph. Coward responded setting his best lap on the 5th lap as the elbows out battle raged around the track. Luck deserted Oversby on lap 6; he had to park the bike at Williams due to clutch failure. This allowed Coward to ease his pace and take a comfortable victory. Herbertson and Stimpson duly took the other podium places. Rea, Meredydd Owen and Will Loder completed the final leader board. Bill Swallow’s race ended with possibly the slowest get off ever seen at Cross Four Ways.
Greystone LLC Senior Race
- Jamie Coward Craven Manx 91.571mph
- Dominic Herbertson Honda 90.660mph
- Dean Stimpson Norton 89.514mph
The final solo race was the Post Classic Superbike Race. Adrian Kershaw; better known for winning 400cc races; took the hole shot; but was soon passed by Jamie Coward and could not manage to stay in the slipstream. Mikey Evans; last year’s winner; had an off at Ballabeg Hairpin. It seems that he has broken his collarbone; putting himself out of the TT. It is a real shame if this proves to be the case. At Church Coward was away and clear. Kershaw was second, 50m clear of Paul Jordan; who made the wrong tyre choice; intermediates rather than slicks.
Mike Hose, Ben Rea and newcomer Andy Farrell filled out the nascent leader board. Coward proceeded to put on a master class; breaking the lap record for fun; raising it by 1.9mph to 106.251mph. He also smashed the race record average increasing it by 1.4mph. Kershaw and Jordan had untroubled rides to the podium places. After a slow start Alan Brodie worked his way through the field to take 4th, Rea and Farrell completed the final leader board.
4 Hire Post Classic Superbike Race
- Jamie Coward 750 Kawasaki 104.569mph
- Adrian Kershaw 750 Kawasaki 102.437mph
- Paul Jordan 750 Kawasaki 101.991mph.
The final race of the meeting was the second Sidecar Race and for once the charioteers had the best weather conditions. The race itself had only 9 starters and proved rather processional. Saturday’s podium finishers seemed set to finish in that order again until Keith Walter’s machine expired on the last lap. Bellas / Quirk had an unchallenged to ride to victory; with Thirkell /Johnson similarly untroubled. Despite overshooting at Cross Four Ways Jeffray / Haynes secured the final podium place.
Steadplan Primus Racing Sidecar Race 2
- Rod Bellas / Danny Quirk 1200 BLR Imp 86.111mph
- Tony Thirkell / Trevor Johnson 1070 BMW 83.028mph
- Patrick Jeffray / Andrew Haynes 1070 BMW 81.707mph
20 minutes after the close of play the sky became oily black; the cloud base lowered and the island was hit with a deluge that meant TT practice could not go ahead.