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Manx Grand Prix
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Thursday Afternoon Practice 21 August 2003

This afternoon's practice session lasted less than an hour, when bad weather clamped down on the upper stretches of the Mountain Course. Some riders were on their second lap, some still on their first, and even more still waiting to start when the chequered flag was put out at the Grandstand and the red flag at Ramsey.

The mist was giving visibility of less than 50 yards from the Mountain Mile to Kate's Cottage, and travelling marshals were deployed to escort a large group from Ramsey back to Douglas in a slow-moving convoy.

The session had already lost ten minutes while a course obstruction at the Highlander was cleared, but riders were in little doubt the correct decision had been taken to halt proceedings.

Typical was the observation of newcomer Darran Read from Sutton in Ashfield. "I thought I knew the Mountain Road, but now I know I don't," he jibed. "The corners come up so fast when you can't see far and I was nearly in the ditch a few times."

Many others agreed and were glad to be back, though a few optimists who thought they'd beaten the cut later got egg on their faces when they were halted at Ramsey and forced to join the "chain gang" toddling over the Mountain behind the TMs.

Victims of the poor visibility at the Bungalow were newcomers Alex Donaldson from Limavady and Sean Maddern from Penzance. They both came off but were uninjured, as was Derek Williams from Llanelli who spilled at Creg-ny-Baa.

Not among those out this afternoon was last year's Newcomers' winner Raymond Porter from Lifford in Eire. He clouted the bales on the inside of the course at Ginger Hall last night injuring his left shoulder. Although discharged later, it looks as if he will be unable to compete, which is ironic as he was only riding in the Manx because a previous injury kept him out of the TT.

Lap times in such a confused session were deemed largely academic, and in any case even the experienced hands were unable to peer through the mist to any effect, thus severely affecting lap times.

So the fastest lap of the week up remains that of Peel's Tommy Clucas, who did 116.16mph last night in what was originally a dice on the roads with the unfortunate Porter. The speed was also sufficient to top the Senior class, which technically is led by Liam Quinn from Lisburn at 115.67mph.

Riders using the same machine for both races have opted to run on Junior number plates for practice, as the Junior precedes the Senior in chronological order and it would be impractical to keep swapping numbers. Quinn has separate machines, as do Paul Duckett, Dean Silvester, Ian Pattinson, Stuart Robson, Andy Jackson, Alan Jackson and Alex Donaldson among others.

Clucas, David Bell, Craig Atkinson and Kenneth McCrea are among those who are using 600cc bikes in both races, though not necessarily literally the same machines.

Fastest times were set in five of the ten classes last night. Besides Clucas' Junior fastest, Keith Taylor from Crook did 106.95mph to take the over from Derran Slous in the Ultra Lightweight class, Darren Burns from Lisburn improved his lead at the top of the 250 Newcomers at 106.88, Alex Donaldson improved to 112.90 to maintain his lead in the 750 Newcomers, and Roy Richardson did 96.74 in the Lightweight Classic to take over the class lead from Ewan Hamilton.

Despite the loss of the greater part of this afternoon's practice, the option to utilise the emergency session tomorrow morning has not been taken up. The next session will therefore be tomorrow evening.

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