After a frustrating three days kicking their heels while Manannan’s Cloak enveloped the island, Festival of Motorcycling competitors were finally able to get some much-needed track time on Thursday evening.
The session got underway at 6.20pm after the earlier afternoon session had been rained off and although the grandstand was bathed in sunshine at the start of the session, clerk of the course Gary Thompson advised riders that there were a number of damp patches around the course, particularly under the trees, which would be highlighted with stationary flags.
The lightweight and ultra-lightweight competitors were first out on the track as well as the Newcomers B competitors. Dave Butler on the Fingal Motor Club Kawasaki was on the pace and recorded a lap of 106.51, while Gareth Evans was just over three seconds behind Butler with a lap of 106.218.
Victor Lopez Santos was third fastest on the opening lap with 105.764 with Dave Lumsden three seconds behind the Spaniard and Andrew Farrell a further eight seconds behind completing the top five.
However, Lumsden, on the Martin Bullock Manxsport Kawasaki went out for a second lap and topped the evening’s Lightweight board with 107.56.
In the concurrent Ultra-Lightweight class Darryl Tweed’s opening lap of 102.29 was comfortably the fastest which he improved to 103.24 on the second lap. Steve Moody and Daniel Ingham completed the top three.
Japan’s Yoshihiro Kishimoto (98.94) narrowly pipped James Hind (98.91) by less than half a second with Barry Sheehan the third fastest Newcomer B on the night with 98.47mph.
John McGuinness and Michael Rutter were first of the Classic TT bikes away from Glencrutchery Road on the Team Winfield Paton and the Ripley Land Racing Matchless respectively that they will race in Saturday’s Bennetts Senior TT Race, while Dan Sayle was one of the riders who took his lightweight machine out in the earlier session.
he leading pair made good progress to the first checkpoint at Ballacraine but Dean Harrison, on his Laylaw Racing 250 Yamaha was reported as an early retirement at Ballacraine although he at least managed to get a lift back to the Grandstand.
McGuinness continued to belie his two-year absence from the Mountain Course with an opening lap of 104.270mph and went straight through as did a number of other competitors putting the frustration the week behind them to rack up some vital Mountain Course miles.
However, Rutter was enjoying no such luck, a retirement on the opening lap at the Mountain Box meant he was stuck out on the course and missing valuable track time.
McGuinness posted a second lap of 106.585mph.
Jamie Coward on the Ted Woof Craven Manx Norton posted a pair of 103mph laps while Chris Swallow riding a Linsdell Enfield, Lee Johnston (Davies Motorsport Honda), Ian Lougher (John Chapman Racing Honda) and Maria Costello (Team Beugger Racing Honda) all posted 100+mph laps.
Sayle showed his two-stroke talent with the overall fastest lap of the evening (109.406) although gear linkage issues on his second lap forced him to stop at Sulby while Charles Rhys Hardisty also went well in the Lightweight class with two 104mph laps.
In the concurrent Junior session Phil McGurk was quickest on the night with an opening lap of 95.988mph from Adam McLean (95.054) and Peter Boast (94.558) with Chris McGahan (93.055) and Mark Herbertson (92.464) completing the top five for the session.
At 7.15pm, with the Senior and Junior MGP machines assembled in Parc Ferme itching to get on the track, the weather once again closed in with reports of rain at Kirk Michael and wet roads in the west of the island and on the Mountain section. This left Thompson had no option but to end the session.
There’s a second afternoon qualifying session today, Friday, to compensate for the lost sessions earlier in the week.
The timetable, subject to weather, is:
1.30pm: Roads close around the course
2pm to 2.55pm: CTT Superbikes/ CTT Lightweight/ MGP Senior/ MGP Junior
3pm to 3.50pm: CTT Senior/ CTT Junior/ MGP Lightweight/ MGP Ultra
4.30pm: Roads open around the Course
6pm: Roads close around the Course
6.20pm to 7.10pm: CTT Superbike/ CTT Lightweight/ MGP Senior/ MGP Junior
7.15pm to 8pm: CTT Senior/ CTT Junior/ MGP Lightweight/ MGP Ultra Lightweight
Roads open no later than 9pm