The Blackford Financial Services Pre-TT Classic meeting gave us a day with everything; except Yul Bryner. We had warm sunshine; then sharp downpours; great racing; rapid decisions to show red flags and unfortunately, one race that ended rather farcically.
The first taster for the crowds was the Support race for those who did not qualify for the main races, for whatever reason. This proved to be a walk in the park for Darren Creer, now back to fitness after an accident. He was never challenged and won by 27s after the 4 laps of the 4.25m Colas Billown Circuit.
The next race in the afternoon sunshine was the Lightweight Classic and this proved to be an excellent race. Mike Hose reacted fastest to the lights and was leading by 25m from Ewan Hamilton and Geoff Ward as they swept through Church Bends for the first time. Brian Mateer was 4th; Barry Davidson 5th; positions they held to the flag. Will Loder was 6th; but he was overhauled in the latter stages by Bill Butler. Hose led through Church on lap 2; but had not increased his advantage. On lap 3 Hamilton edged past Hose going in to Cross Four Ways and he led as the trio came into Church. Hose took a tight line on the first right hand bend; gained great traction and powered around the outside Hamilton on the left hand exit; brave stuff on the adverse camber.
This proved to be the decisive move; he moved away from Hamilton; who in turn was able to ease away from Ward. Hose moved his wins total up to 18 and 2 clear of Bill Swallow at the top of the chart.
Quine & Cubbon Lightweight Race
- Mike Hose Ariel Arrow 83.141mph
- Ewan Hamilton Suzuki 82.423mph
- Jeff Ward Suzuki 82.132mph
- Brian Mateer Suzuki 80.591mph
- Barry Davidson Honda 77.398mph
- Bill Butler Suzuki 76.283mph
Next race for our delectation was the Greystones LLC Senior. Notable non-starters were Ivan Lintin; due to ride John Chapman’s gorgeous MV Agusta (not Augusta as appears on official TT clothing: Augusta is the state capital of Maine, USA); Barry Davidson, due to ride the Gimbert Honda 4 and Jamie Coward entered on the Craven Manx. Despite these absentees, a full grid faced the starter; including former GP Sidecar driver Wolfgang Stropek . The early lead was held by Dominic Herbertson, he led by 1.8s as he swept through Church for the first time. Alan Oversby held 2nd, 1.6s ahead of third placed Steve Ferguson; who had Mike Hose in close company. Then the pack charged through providing a great sight for the crowd.
Herbertson made a small error on the run into Castletown Corner and allowed the much more experienced Oversby to take the lead. On lap 2 Oversby led by 0.8s at Church; Hose was further 1.6s back in third. Our leader board was completed by Peter Boast, Steve Ferguson and Chris McGahan; who was shortly to retire. Herbertson sat behind Oversby for the next 2 laps learning a few tricks of the trade and then on lap 5 he moved ahead. He led by 10m as they hustled their machines through the s-bend. Hose held a safe 3rd; whilst Ferguson had retaken Boast to hold 4th. Herbertson held a similar advantage on lap 6; but any thoughts of the job being done were dispelled when Oversby nipped in front again on lap 7. Herbertson was not to be denied, he squeezed past on the back of the circuit; led by 5m at Church and aided by the best lap of the race held on to secure his first win by 0.83s.
Greystones LLC Senior Race
- Dominic Herbertson Davies Yamaha 92.590mph
- Alan Oversby Davies Honda 92.572mph
- Mike Hose Ripley Land Seeley 89.861mph
- Steve Ferguson Greenhall Honda 87.402mph
- Bob Owen Seeley G50 86.570mph
- Peter Boast D.M. Honda 86.183mph
The next race was the Geoff Duke Post Classic Junior Race. James Cowton was quickest away from the lights and was never headed. By Church Bends one lap 1 he already had a 4s advantage over Dan Sayle; having some r & r away from his usual sidecar racing; with Ryan Kneen a close 3rd. Gary Vines, Barry Davidson and Peter Boast completed the leader board. On lap 2 at Church, Cowton had doubled his advantage to 8s. Ryan Kneen was second having passed Sayle, who was having a brake problem. There was some close racing down the field; notably a duel between Tom Snow and Steve Ault that lasted a few laps before Ault made a minor error and lost ground. The pattern was now established, Cowton eased away from Kneen, who was safe in third from Sayle who came under a little pressure from Gary Vines on the final lap.
Geoff Duke Post Classic Junior
- James Cowton Yamaha 98.118mph
- Ryan Kneen Yamaha 96.376mph
- Dan Sayle Honda 95.666mph
- Gary Vines Honda 95.421mph
- Tom Snow Yamaha 92.455mph
- Barry Davidson Yamaha 92.454mph
The Sidecars returned to the track for their second race of the meeting and the final one of the afternoon session. It was a case of déjà vu; Eddy Wright took the lead from the lights and he was never headed. At Church on the first lap 2nd place was held by Tony Thirkell; with Keith Walters holding 3rd. On lap 2 Walters managed to force his way past Thirkell, but by now Wright was 11s up the road; with victory his, barring a problem. Wright had an untroubled ride; eased his pace for the last two laps and duly took his second win of the meeting by 4.45s.
Sidecar Heat 2
- Eddy Wright / Keiran Clarke BMW 84.704mph
- Keith Walters / Alun Thomas Honda 84.151mph
- Tony Thirkell / Trevor Johnson BMW 83.002mph
- Mike Bellarby / Dave Gristwood BMW 81.844mph
- Wal Saunders / Bob Dowty MR Equipe 79.978mph
- Kobus Bouman / Nicolai Klinker Weslake 78.045mph
After the short tea break and a change of venue to Castletown Corner it was time for the first race of the evening session; the 850cc Race; essentially a re-run of the Senior with some Triumph / BSA triples and Weslake machines added to the mix. This looked like it would be another victory for Dominic Herbertson; he led by 4.5s as he powered away from us to complete the first lap. Second place was held by Steve Ferguson; with Mike Hose in third on the Weslake. On lap 2 Herbertson went into Cross Four Ways a tad too quickly; he ran wide onto the marbles on the exit and lost it when he opened the throttle; falling to ground directly in front of Ryan and Dan Kneen who were spectating there. This error gifted the lead of the race to Ferguson; it was one that he did not refuse. He duly completed one of the easiest victories of his career helped by his most likely challenger, Mike Hose, being forced out on the second lap. Bob Owen, Dave Matravers and Alec Whitwell had a good battle for that second place until Whitwell hit problems and fell down the order. 10s back from them, Elliott and Boast had a squabble over fifth; until the latter stages when it became for fourth.
A D Hewitt 850cc Race
- Steve Ferguson 500 Honda 88.528mph
- Bob Owen 500 Seeley G50 86.864mph
- Dave Matravers 500 Paton 86.843mph
- Steve Elliott 500 Honda 86.249mph
- Peter Boast 500 Honda 86.222mph
- Alan Jackson 500 Norton 83.538mph
The next race was the Junior; this looked set to be good a race as group of 5, led by Alan Oversby charged towards us from Stadium Bend. Then it was halted by a red flag; due to a mid-field coming together at Cross Four Ways. Thankfully no serious injuries were caused in the incident and racing was allowed to restart quite quickly.
To allow the Junior machines to be made ready to race again the Post Classic Superbike Race was brought forward. Former GP star Bernard Fau practiced for this event but did not make it to the start line. The race fired up under darkening skies; with Jamie Coward and double MGP winner Mikey Evans away from the lights like scalded cats. Coward led by 10m from Evans as they heeled into the tight bend for the first time. Coward was soon out of the race; the big Kawasaki throwing in the towel. Dennis Booth, Peter Boast, Mike Hose and Michael Hand formed the chasing posse behind Evans. On lap 2 Evans was 9.9s ahead of his chasers and surely on his way to a maiden victory at the meeting. As the riders could be heard hammering along the straight at Great Meadow the 70% chance of a shower became 100%. It absolutely hammered it down making the road wet in seconds and sending spectators running for any cover. Down came the rain; down came the speeds and up went the leading riders’ hands. Their call was answered almost immediately and out went the red flags; a great decision because superbikes on slicks do not mix well with a soaking wet track. No restart was possible so the result was declared at the end of lap 3; Evans taking victory by 13.8s.
4 Hire Post Classic Superbikes
- Michael Evans 750 Kawasaki 100.694mph
- Peter Boast 750 Yamaha 97.729mph
- Mike Hose 750 Kawasaki 97.562mph
- Dennis Booth 1100 Suzuki 97.537mph
- Michael Hand 750 Yamaha 97.245mph
- Tim Poole 750 Suzuki 96.478mph
The Junior machines returned to the start line under leaden skies. This again looked like it would be a cracking race. On lap 1 a group consisting of Davidson, Ferguson, Herbertson and Oversby was contesting the lead; with Boast and Hose scrapping over fifth. Lap 2 saw the same four going at it like junk yards dogs fighting for a tasty bone; this time around Herbertson was the marginal leader. On lap 3 as the rain began to fall the leading group was down to three; Davidson having dropped 3.8s on the leading trio. The rain now became seriously organized and the track became wet once again. Then confusion appears to have reigned. It seems that a message became confused; perhaps not aided by the radio commentary. Unofficial reports suggest that riders were bemused by flag signals. This resulted in some riders touring past us whilst others were still going at race pace; the first time that I have seen something like this happen at Billown. The net result was that the race was brought to an early close with Herbertson as leader at the end of the fourth lap declared to be the winner.
Manx Environmental Services Junior Race
- Dominic Herbertson Honda 86.435mph
- Alan Oversby Honda 86.265mph
- Steve Ferguson Honda 86.264mph
- Barry Davidson Honda 85.634mph
- Mike Hose Honda 85.613mph
- Peter Boast Honda 85.119mph
The final race was the Sidecar Final; this was declared a wet race and wet it most certainly was. Many crews decided not to bother and who could blame them. Keith Walters made a good start and led through Castletown Corner; however the superior top end of Eddy Wright’s outfit allowed him to edge past on the approach to Ballakeighan. These two were well clear of third paced Andy Nourish. Wright led on lap 2; but as the intensity of the rain picked up markedly to monsoon proportions Walters made the pass on the run into Castletown Corner on lap 3. Just when it seemed that he could taste victory, he gave it a tad too much throttle and spun the outfit. Wright avoided making contact and cleared off into the distance. Walters turned the outfit and gave chase but must have lost 20s. He put in a rapid last lap to close to within 0.5s at the close; if only!
- Eddy Wright / Keiran Clarke BMW 77.162mph
- Keith Walters / Alun Thomas Honda 77.015mph
- Andy Nourish / Michael Leeflang Weslake 72.331mph
Thus ended a great meeting; one that had something for everyone. In less than two weeks we can re-assemble at Billown for the Post TT meeting; should be most enjoyable.