The first annual dinner of the Manx Motor Cycle Club in three years had a decidedly Continental flavour to it.

Two of the three guests of honours in attendance had travelled to the event from Europe.

Last year’s Senior Manx Grand Prix winner Stephen Smith, a Doctor of Philosophy, is based in Salzburg, Austria, while Junior winner Francesco Curinga and his wife Serena journeyed from Italy via the republic of San Marino and London.

With his wife translating for him, Curinga said: ‘I love the Isle of Man; I love the people; I love the organisation of the Manx Grand Prix and I love the island.’

He is returning to our shores in late May to prepare for his TT debut when he will again link up with Ian Lougher’s team to ride Mark Coverdale’s Paton in the two Supertwin races. He is also contesting the North West 200.

Smith first made his debut on the Mountain Course almost a decade ago, but he missed two or three years even before the enforced pandemic lay-off.

The Liverpudlian’s ultimate ambition has always been to ride the TT and he intends to fulfil that dream this year, although he remained largely tight-lipped about what make of bike he is likely to ride, but it will almost certainly be a 1,000cc Superstock machine.

A performance nutritionist for Red Bull APC, he stressed how much he had been looking forward to coming back to the island from Austria for the function.

‘I may also have another crack at the Southern 100, but I will probably leave the North West 200 for this year.’

Later he added that Alastair Cowan, who built the 600cc Kawasaki that he won the Senior MGP aboard, had hinted at the possibility of a ride with him on a superbike in the Classic MGP.

‘I’d be very interested, but it all depends on costs and time off. It is in no way confirmed.’

Rob Hodson has a full season of international road racing ahead of him, including the NW200, TT and Southern 100, and return to the Classic Manx on the exact same Greenall Racing Kawasaki he won on. He may well have struggled to remember the names of some of the major corners on the course, but the Wigan ace has no problem negotiating them.

‘Last year’s Classic Superbike was a great race. I managed to build up a sizeable lead of 20 seconds heading into the pits, but I was sorry when Craig Neve went out as I’d prefer to beat all of the riders fair and square. He ultimately won by 15s from local rider Nathan Harrison on a sister bike, who pipped Australia’s Davo Johnson for the runner-up spot in the closing miles.

positive and fruitful, but we realise that the financial support for the races depends heavily on their ability to attract visitors to the island and create media interest.’