The 2018 Manx Grand Prix exploded into life one day late. The first race of the meeting was the Newcomers’ race that was split into two classes; Class A essentially for Supersport machines and Class B for SuperTwin machines and 250cc two strokes. The day had mainly dry roads; high grey clouds that meant no harsh shadows and most importantly strong winds all around the course.
The riders were seeded into order in accordance with their best practice time. This meant that Mike Brown from Killeagh in Ireland had the honour of being first to plunge down Bray Hill. He was the fastest to Glen Helen; leading the race from Nathan Harrison by 4s; with Thomas Maxwell 5s back in third. Browne continued to lead at Ballaugh Bridge; but just as the bike came into view at Sulby Bridge it suffered a spectacular engine blow up. The marshals reacted immediately to show precautionary lack of adhesion and yellow flags. A quick inspection showed that the casings were intact and that no oil had been dropped on to the track.
With the smoke still hanging in the air Thomas Maxwell and Nathan Harrison took the right hand bend leading onto the bridge. Harrison had all but closed the starting gap so led the race by 10s. It was clear that all Harrison had to do was to sit on Maxwell’s rear wheel and he would win the race. The plan seemed to be going well as he led by 10s at the end of the lap. He then moved ahead of Maxwell on the road to lead by 13s at Glen Helen. Then fate played another card and Nathan was forced to park his machine at Cronk Urleigh (13th Milestone).
Harrison’s misfortune left Maxwell with a 24s lead over Stephen Haddow; with James Field on the RAF Kawasaki completing the top 3; but under challenge from Arnie Shelton and John Piloud. The Sulby speed trap showed that Maxwell’s machine was well down on top speed compared to those in the chasing group; he later explained that the engine was in need of a rebuild and would not pull top gear. The lead had reduced to 20s at Ramsey and going into the pits for the fuel stop it had been cut in half. Just when it seemed that Haddow had a real chance of victory he blotted his copybook by exceeding the pit lane limit. He knew that he had done it and simply had to swallow the bitter pill and try to recover the lost time on the track.
At Glen Helen on lap 3 Maxwell’s lead over Haddow was 38s; he in turn had an advantage of 23s from Field. Despite giving himself a couple of scares; notably in the area of the 12th Milestone; Haddow chipped away at the lead. He had cut it to 10s at Cronk ny Mona on the last lap; however despite setting a final lap of 116.188mph; the best of the race; he missed out to Maxwell by 12.842s; with James Field taking the final step of the podium.
Manx Grand Prix Newcomers’ A
- Thomas Maxwell 600 Yamaha 112.608mph
- Stephen Haddow 600 Kawasaki 112.309mph
- James Field 600 Kawasaki 110.548mph
In Class B we were treated to a shootout at the front between Michael Rees and James Hind. At Glen Helen on lap 1, Rees had taken the early advantage and led by 6s from Barry Sheehan; with Jack Fowler just a further 0.5s back in third. Rees continued to lead at Ballaugh; but Hind had now wound up the wick on his RS250 Honda and was in second place. At Ramsey, Rees led by just 0.377s as he powered away towards Waterworks. The lead had changed hands at The Bungalow where Hind led by3s.
At the end of the opening lap Hind led the race by 2s; but Rees was again rapid on the charge to Glen Helen he led there by 1.7s. They continued to fight like hungry jackals as they flashed between the hedges and walls of the famous old course.
Rees entered the pits as the leader but a problem with the filler cap cost him 11s and gifted a lead of 7.1s to Hind. Rees had always intended to ease his way into the race and then up the pace in the second half of the race. He duly began to execute the plan and chipped away at the lead. At The Bungalow he had reduced it to 2.3s and as he charged along Glencrutchery Road to start the final lap he had a lead of 3s tucked into his leathers. He continued to pull away as the lap progressed; he led by over 20s at The Bungalow and had added 4 more seconds at the end of the thrilling encounter. Sheehan duly took the final step of the podium; with jack Fowler 4th. The second Colombian rider to race on the Mountain Course; Daniel Fernandez took 5th place. Behind him Veronika Hankocyova achieved her ambition of lapping at over 100mph with 101.148mph on her final lap.
Manx Grand Prix Newcomers’ B
- Michael Rees 650 Kawasaki 106.184mph
- James Hind 250 Honda 105.669mph
- Barry Sheehan 650 Kawasaki 104.175mph