Lee Johnston rounded out an excellent opening day of racing at the Manx Grand Prix on Saturday evening with an eight-second victory over Italian Stefano Bonetti in the three-lap Bremont Classic Senior race.
The popular Davies Motorsport Yamaha rider also set the fastest lap of the race at 111.029mph. Bonetti (Peter Beugger Racing Paton) grabbed the early advantage through Glen Helen on the opening lap, the Italian leading Johnston and Herbertson by 2.8 seconds, the two Davies Motorsport Yamaha’s inseparable after the first nine miles.
Mike Browne (Peter Grantham Lodge Norton) slotted into fourth ahead of Rob Hodson (Ruthless Racing Hodson) and James Hillier (CSC Racing Yamaha). By Ramsey in the north of the island, Bonetti’s lead had increased to 3.7s but it was now Herbertson in second albeit by just half a second from his teammate.
Hillier, circulating on the road with Johnston, had climbed up to fourth with Browne down to fifth and Jamie Coward (Ted Woof/Craven Manx Norton) now in sixth. Bonetti’s opening lap of 109.211mph saw him maintain his lead but Johnston had charged over the Mountain and not only was he back up to second, he was now only 1.16 second behind the Italian.
Herbertson had dropped to third, 2.7 seconds adrift of Johnston but ten seconds clear of Hillier with Browne and Coward holding station in fifth and sixth. With the sun continuing to shine, the gap between the leaders at Glen Helen second time around was just 0.9s with Herbertson dropping 6.5s behind Johnston and the latter was certainly charging as he cut Bonetti’s advantage to 0.3s at Ballaugh.
Hillier was also charging and was now only 3.7seconds off a podium position. That had come down to two seconds at Ramsey Hairpin and, indeed, the gaps were tightening up with less than 12 seconds covering the first four riders. But it was now Johnston in the lead, the Northern Irishman turning his deficit into a one-second advantage as he started his run over the Mountain for the second time, Hodson was out though at Rhencullen.
With a speed of 110.342mph Johnston’s lead extended to a more comfortable 7.2s as he started his third and final lap but whilst second to fourth behind him remained the same, Hillier was losing time and was now falling into the clutches of Browne.
Indeed, the gap was just 1.87s at the Grandstand with the Irish rider lapping at 109.034mph second time around. Coward was also over 109mph and only 4.9s further back.
The race was far from over though as Bonetti cut Johnston’s lead to 4.3 seconds as they took the left hander at Glen Helen for the final time and, further back, Hillier’s problems saw him drop to sixth with Browne and Coward now slitting into fourth and fifth respectively.
By Ballaugh, Johnston’s lead was down to 3.3seconds but Herbertson stopped and retired at the same spot which meant Lightweight race winner Browne was now up to third ahead of Coward, Hillier and Alan Oversby (Martin Ireland Honda).
Johnston responded to Bonetti’s charge and added another three tenths of a second to his lead by the time they reached Ramsey and that trend continued up and down the Mountain with a final lap of 111.029mph, the fastest lap of the race, giving him victory by 8.24 seconds from Bonetti who matched his second place finish from 2019.
Browne completed his fine day with a lap of 110.312mph for his second podium finish in the space of a few hours, third place no mean feat given his lack of practice on the bike, with Coward, Oversby and Michael Sweeney (CSC Racing Honda) completing the top six.
Michael Russell, Hefyn Owen and Will Loder occupied seventh to ninth and it was Hillier who rounded out the top 10 after pushing in from Governor’s Bridge.
The first 350cc machine to finish was Onchan’s Nathan Harrison in 11th, winning the Harold Rowell Cup.