Championship Day gave us just about ideal conditions; dry track, light breeze and high cloud to diffuse the strong sunlight; all was set for records to be obliterated.
The first taster was the 600cc C Race. This produced a good battle between three newcomers. It was eventually settled in favour of Triumph mounted Jack Fowler; with Tommy Henry (Yamaha) second and Mark Pattinson (Honda) in third.
Next was the 600cc B race. Having had major problems in practice Davy Morgan found himself in this race. After a slowish start he soon showed his class and once his Honda was ahead of early leader Dennis Booth he was never troubled. A good scrap for second place was eventually settled in favour of Kawasaki mounted Stephen Parsons by 0.32s from Suzuki mounted Stephen Smith; both newcomers to the meeting.
Next was the A Race; sponsored by long time race supporters S & S Motors. The large crowd gathered at Cross Four Ways was about to be treated to something unforgettable with the first four finishers all beating the previous lap record. It was a case of déjà vu as James Cowton was fastest away. He led a breakaway group of four; Dean Harrison was 2nd; Michael Dunlop 3rd and Jamie Coward 4th. Joey Thompson held 5th with Ivan Lintin 6th. After them came the main field spread right across the track as they scrapped for positions. At the end of the lap Harrison had taken over at the sharp end; he had an advantage of 0.4s over Cowton; with Dunlop 0.3s behind him.
On lap 2 Harrison opened a gap of about 15m from Cowton; who had 5m over Dunlop and coward. Thompson was 1.5s down on Coward; whilst Lintin maintained 6th. At the end of the lap the lead was just 0.3s. The pace was rising as the battle intensified at the front. On lap 3 at Cross Four Ways 10 covered the leading four; with Harrison holding tiny advantage over second placed Cowton. The pace was even hotter on lap 4; Harrison led by 5m from man on the move Michael Dunlop as they took the corner in fine style and at a speed that would have been unthinkable a few years ago. At the end of the lap Harrison led by just 0.3s from Dunlop; whose lap set a new record of 110.824mph.
On lap 5 Harrison led Dunlop by 10m; they had pulled 1.3s ahead of Cowton; who in turn led Coward by 1.1s. Thompson and Lintin held 5th and 6th respectively. Behind then a good scrap was unfolding between Dan Hegarty and Rob Hodson. Going into the penultimate lap Harrison led by 0.4s from Dunlop; with both lapping at 111mph; incredible on 600cc machines. At Cross Four Ways, Harrison led by 0.5s from Dunlop; the gap was the same as he began his final lap; having set a new record at 111.276mph. Dunlop had most certainly not settled for second place; at Cross four Ways the gap was down to just 10m as they opened the taps and hammered away towards church bends for the last time. Despite Michael setting a new lap record at 111.335mph; Harrison had enough in hand to take a wonderful victory at a new race record that was over 9s inside the old mark. For one who remembers clearly the first 100mph lap being set by Brian Reid; it is amazing that a 600cc road bike based machine can lap this tricky circuit at such a speed; I must be getting old.
Harrison was delighted with his win and said that it was more difficult to set the pace than to have a target ahead. Dunlop was content with his race; but said that he needed the machine to be able to match the speed out of the corners of Harrison’s Kawasaki.
S & S Motors 600cc Race
- Dean Harrison Silicone Kawasaki 109.460mph
- Michael Dunlop M D Yamaha 109.430mph
- James Cowton McAdoo Kawasaki 109.070mph
- Jamie Coward Radcliffe’s Honda 108.804mph
- Joey Thompson ILR Kawasaki 107.016mph
- Ivan Lintin R C Express Kawasaki 105.000mph
The final race of the morning was the second Senior Race; this time sponsored by Island Aggregates. A change of position to the inside of Cross Four Ways gave a really close up view of the machines and no time to frame photographs. The warm up lap saw Dean Harrison pull to the side of the road. Everyone assumed that he was doing a Michael Dunlop and waiting until he could have a blast on the straight through Great Meadow to put some real heat into his tyres. The cynics proved to be incorrect; he had another machine problem and had to ride the big Kawasaki to the paddock rather than take up his allotted starting position. This left us with an enthralling duel in the sun between Michael Dunlop and Dan Kneen. Dunlop was quickest from the lights; but for Jamie Coward the start cost him any chance of challenging; he was well down the field when he reached the first corner at Ballakeighan.
First machine into the sunlight at Cross four Ways was the blue Suzuki of Dunlop; he led by about 5m from Kneen’s white BMW. Ivan Lintin, James Cowton, Derek Mc Gee and Rob Hodson were the next the power through the bend. Michael Russell ruined his chances of a good finish by taking the scenic route; caused by a brake problem that led to him taking the early bath. At the end of the lap Dunlop was 0.4s ahead of Kneen. The second lap saw the pace rise to well over 113.5mph; Dunlop led by 0.25s as they opened the taps alongside my position. Cowton, Lintin, McGee and Hodson completed the leader board; however Coward was flying; up to 7th and closing on those immediately ahead.
Lap 3 saw the leaders up their pace to over 114mph; Dunlop’s lead 0.2s as they left Cross four Ways and just 0.11s at the end of the lap. Lap 4 saw the pace rise again; with Dunlop recording a speed of 114.612mph. At Cross Four Ways he led by 0.25s and at the end of the lap it was by 0.276s. Coward was continuing to gain and had moved up to 5th place. Dunlop increased his pace again; he completed the 5th lap at 115.267; an absolute circuit lap record; to ease away from Kneen. The lead was 0.8s at Cross Four Ways and 1.2s at the end of the lap. Any thoughts that victory may be secure were premature; Kneen put in his best lap of the race at 115.128mph and had cut the lead back to 0.75s. Behind them Coward; aided by laps at over 113mph had grabbed third place from Lintin.
On the final lap Dunlop was immaculate and led by 1.1s as he charged towards Church for the final time. Kneen kept trying and had cut the gap to 0.9s by the end of another record shattering race. Such was their pace that their race averages were quicker than the fastest laps of every other rider. Coward duly took third and again bemoaned his poor start, caused by hitting neutral on the start line. Dunlop said that he would be making minor changes to his machine before the Championship Race. Kneen had managed to knock off his traction control on the start line so had some interesting moments. Cowton took 5th and newcomer Derek McGee took 6th; setting an impressive personal best lap of 111.312mph.
Island Aggregates Senior Race
- Michael Dunlop Bennett’s Suzuki 113.626mph
- Dan Kneen Penz13 BMW 113.518mph
- Jamie Coward Radcliffe’s BMW 110.375mph
- Ivan Lintin R C Express Kawasaki 109.761mph
- James Cowton McAdoo Kawasaki 109.755mph
- Derek McGee Kawasaki 109.661mph
The first race of the afternoon was the second 250/600cc race and it again gave us a straight fight between Ivan Lintin and James Cowton. Once again Cowton was quickest away and he led by 10m as they crested the small rise on the approach to Church Bends. Rob Hodson, Derek McGee, Dave Moffitt and Jonathan Perry filled the leader board places. Cowton led by 20m on lap 2; with the front two puling well clear of the remainder of the field. The main change behind was that Joey Thompson was up to 5th and right behind McGee. The lead was down to 5m on lap 3; Hodson held 3rd, Thompson was up to 4th; McGee 5th and Moffitt 6th.
On lap 4 Lintin took the lead going into Cross Four Ways; one of several such changes as they used drafting to good effect. Behind them Thompson had closed to within 0.5s of Hodson. Lap 5 saw the record books re-written as both Cowton and Lintin lapped 1.5s inside the old lap record. The new record stands to Cowton at 104.600mph (Lintin’s lap was 104.599mph). The speed of 10104.600mph listed in the official results seems a tad ambitious. On lap 5 Cowton led by 5m going into Cross Four Ways as the battle continued to keep the crowd rapt. On the final lap Lintin made the pass going into Cross Four Ways and managed to keep Cowton at bay by the tiny margin of just 0.065s after a superb tussle.
Behind them Hodson held off a dejected Thompson by 1.3s; McGee and Perry completed the final leader board after another record breaking race. Both Lintin and Cowton enjoyed the race; but stated that it was plenty hard enough with all of the drafting and swapping of positions.
Ocean Ford 250/600cc Race
- Ivan Lintin R C Express Kawasaki 103.164mph
- James Cowton McAdoo Kawasaki 103.157mph
- Rob Hodson Kawasaki 100.703mph
- Joey Thompson ILR Yamaha 100.556mph
- Derek McGee Kawasaki 99.944mph
- Jonathan Perry Kawasaki 98.745mph
The next race was version 2 of the 125/400cc Race. The main item of note prior to the race was that potential podium man Adrian Kershaw would be a non-starter. The race gave us the same result as the first race with Darryl Tweed taking the hole-shot and then edging away from the chasing pack. His main challenger was his friend Seamus Elliott, who came through to second after having been down in 5th at Church on lap 1 due to a “bit of barging” at the start.
Lap 2 saw Tweed 0.8s ahead of Paul Gartland, Alistair Haworth and Dan Sayle were 0.5s further back and being closed down by Elliott. On lap 3 Sayle was up to 3rd on the little Moto 3 Honda and pulling away from Haworth and Elliott. Sayle was up to 2nd as he passed us on lap 4, a mistake at Cross Four Ways having dropped Gartland to 4th. However more bad luck befell Sayle and he had to park the little single just down the road from us. All of this left us with an order that was maintained until the end.
IOM Steam Packet Company 125/400cc Race
- Darryl Tweed M&D Kawasaki 96.215mph
- Seamus Elliott Yamaha 95.649mph
- Paul Gartland Yamaha 95.140mph
- Alistair Haworth Yamaha 94.242mph
- Paul Robinson Honda 93.110mph
- Radley Hughes Kawasaki 93.064mph
Next race was the Solo Championship over 9 laps of 4.25 miles circuit and it promised to be one of the best ever. Dean Harrison’s problems with the big Kawasaki had been cured and he was a definite starter; suggesting that we would witness at least a three way battle for the top honour. Harrison, Michael Dunlop and Dan Kneen made good starts; whilst Daley Mathison nearly flipped his mount. Anticipation rose as the machines could be heard hammering along the difficult back section of the course leading to Cross Four Ways. First to crest the rise on the approach to Church was Michael Dunlop; he had a gap of 0.8s from Dean Harrison and Dan Kneen. James Cowton was 4th, Derek McGee 5th and Jamie Coward 6th after another far from perfect start. Just behind them came Dan Hegarty and Rob Hodson and 25m behind them the main cavalry charge.
At the end of the opening lap Dunlop had an advantage of 1.29s over Harrison; with Kneen right behind him in 3rd. Coming into Church for the second time Dunlop’s Suzuki led the Kawasaki of Harrison by 0.8s; with Kneen’s BMW just 0.3s back in third. Coward was the man on the move; up to 4th and opening a gap on Cowton. McGee was 6th; but he was being caught by Hegarty who was having his best ride of the week. At the end of the lap Dunlop led by 0.475s; with Kneen 0.25s adrift of Harrison. Things had really tightened up on lap 3; Dunlop led by 10m from Harrison who had Kneen a tyre’s width behind him. As expected the leading trio were dismantling the lap and race records; lapping at over 115mph is quite simply awesome. At the end of the lap just 0.3s covered the three gladiators.
Lap 4 saw a change; it was Harrison who led by 5m from Dunlop who had Kneen mere inches behind him. The dice provided a wonderful spectacle for the record crowd gathered around the circuit. Behind them there was no change in the leader board places. Lap 5 gave us the same order; but with Harrison about 10m ahead of the chasing duo. No change on the next lap as they swept through; brushing their shoulders on the wall on the inside of the left hand exit to the tricky S bends. The pulse rate of the locals moved up a touch on the next lap; Kneen had taken the lead going into Cross four Ways and it was he who led by 5m as they swept through between the churchyard walls. Harrison took the lead as they went into Ballakeighan; but Kneen did not take that lying down and retook the lead at Cross Four Ways. At the end of the lap Kneen led from Harrison and Dunlop; but a good blanket would have covered them.
On lap 8 Harrison was able to out brake Kneen going into Cross Four Ways and it was he who led by a tiny margin as the three threw the machines into the right hand bend. Kneen managed to come alongside Harrison on the bypass at the start of the final lap; however Harrison was better on the brakes and led going through Ballakeighan. At Church Harrison led Kneen by 5m with Dunlop a further 15m behind Kneen. With Kneen’s stock brakes very seriously overheating he had no chance to try to out brake Harrison at the final corner and despite trying out drag the Kawasaki on the run to the finish he had to settle for a fine second place. He was beaten by just 0.131s at the end of a record shredding race that saw the outright lap record raised to 115.707mph by Dunlop on the final lap; a lap on which Kneen lapped at 115.616mph and Harrison at 115.500mph; quite unfathomable. Harrison was delighted to win the race especially after the earlier problems. Kneen was pleased to have taken second but ruing not having up rated brakes. Dunlop said that the changes he made after the morning’s race went too far and caused some rear wheel spinning. He said that if the machine was perfect he could lap at 117mph; now that would be worth seeing. Such was the pace they set that Harrison’s winning time was 10.5s inside Guy Martin’s old record from 2014. Derek McGee was the best newcomer in 7th; just 0.21 away from 6th; but Sam West was the fastest; he joined the 110mph club.
Manx Gas Solo Championship
- Dean Harrison Silicone Kawasaki 113.877mph
- Dan Kneen Penz13 BMW 113.864mph
- Michael Dunlop Bennett’s Suzuki 113.828mph
- Jamie Coward Radcliffe’s BMW 112.064mph
- James Cowton McAdoo Kawasaki 111.004mph
- Dan Hegarty Top Gun Honda 109.073mph
The Sidecar Championship was without Dave Molyneux and Dan Sayle who had suffered a crank failure the previous evening. A rumour was spreading like wildfire that Wednesday’s race would prove to be the final one of Molyneux’s illustrious career. I can confirm that the rumour has no basis in fact; the best that there has ever been is not yet ready to hang up his leathers.
On track the race start was delayed at the behest of the leading crews after a brief shower fell during the sighting lap. After a further sighting lap; to put heat back into the tyres; a race of 7, rather than 8 laps began. Tim Reeves was the quickest out of the traps; he led as the machines began to charge over the rise and into our view. He and Mark Wilkes led the Birchall brothers by 10m; with John Holden/Lee Cain the same distance behind the Birchalls. At the end of the lap the lead was 0.39s; with Holden 0.3s further back. Conrad Harrison, Wayne Lockey and Steve Ramsden completed the leader board. On lap 2 Reeves and Birchall had opened a gap of 2.8s from 3rd placed Harrison; a mistake having cost Holden one position. By the end of the lap Holden had retaken third.
On lap 3 the lead was 15m; with Birchall now 5.3s ahead of Holden; who had pulled a gap of 3s over Harrison. The lead was much the same on lap 4; but the pace was amazing; the leading pairs lapping at over 101mph. Behind them Holden was secure; but Harrison was now being harried by Wayne Lockey/Mark Sayers. Lap 5 and the frenetic pace continued; the lead was just 5m and all present sensed that it was only a matter of time before the Birchall brothers attempted a pass. Behind them, Lockey had passed Harrison and now had to defend his position.
On lap 6 a pass was attempted at Cross four Ways; but Reeves was able to rebuff it and it was he who led by a couple of metres as they swept through Church for the 6th time. On the final lap the outfits could be heard approaching Cross Four Ways; then it all went wrong; the two outfits collided and that of Reeves was flipped over and went hurtling up the road and into the wall alongside the slip road. Thankfully Reeves and the Birchall brothers were unhurt; whilst Wilkes sustained just minor abrasions in what was at first feared to be a major incident; one that was frighteningly similar to the accident that left Geoff Bell seriously injured in 1992. Reeves’ outfit suffered major damage; showing just how lucky the riders and passengers were. The red flag was displayed immediately and the race was over. The only emotion was one of huge relief and there was heartfelt applause for all of the crews as they eventually made their way to the paddock.
The final outcome was that the race was decided on the positions at the end of lap 6; but with Reeves/Wilkes and the Birchalls excluded due them being involved in the incident. This left John Holden/Lee Cain as the champions; on John’s birthday. His luck was really in because his clutch was totally shot.
Manx Gas Sidecar Championship
- John Holden/Lee Cain LCR Honda 97.519mph
- Wayne Lockey/Mark Sayers Ireson Honda 95.489mph
- Corad Harrison/Andy Winkle Bellas Honda 95.468mph
- Tony Baker/Shelly Smithies Baker Suzuki 94.625mph
- Steve/Matty Ramsden LCR Honda 94.560mph
- Greg Lambert/Julie Canipa GLR Honda 90.478mph
A wonderful meeting ended with victories for Alan Connor and David Howard in the two Consolation Support races. Hopefully we can all gather again next year to witness what is the best road race meeting of the year. The committee made running it all look seamless and easy; their efforts and the record breaking racing provided a fitting tribute to club President Derek Nicholson whose warm welcome we have all missed greatly. We must give him a fitting send off next week; may he Rest in Peace.