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Manx Grand Prix
MGP News
Friday Evening Practice 22 August 2003

Conditions were good for the first part of the penultimate practice session, but later the weather began to close in, though not sufficient to curtail events. The Classic and Ultra Lightweights started off proceedings, but two riders from other classes had special permission to run ahead of them. Andy Lovett from Preston and Billy Hughes from Liverpool were permitted one lap apiece.

Lovett was first back and pleased that his fourth 600 Yamaha motor of the week had held together. The latest was one purchased second-hand locally after all the other mixes-and-matches had expired.

Nick Jefferies was out early but had an exciting time on his Manx Norton. The rev-counter bracket broke at Kirk Michael, the clutch went at Signpost and when he pulled in he found the petrol tanks leaking badly. Ten minutes later, with repairs completed, he was back out. You can't keep a good ISDE man down!

TT stars continue to grace the ranks of helpers and spotted in the paddock this evening was 2003 125cc TT winner Chris Palmer assisting newcomer Elle Forrest in setting up her 125. 1999 Senior MGP winner Colin Breeze was also sighted, lamenting not riding but explaining that time and money did not permit this time.

Out late in the first part were Bill Swallow and Jason Griffiths, demonstrating that dozens of practice laps serve little purpose when you have the level of experience they do. Noticed changing from 500 Aermacchi to Norton was Bill's stable-mate Mark Linton.

Derran Slous from Ramsey was glad he'd pulled in at the end of the first lap. He'd had trouble keeping his left foot on the rest and discovered the reason: the aluminium chainguard had broken. He reflected it was good job it had not caught the rear chain and maybe jammed the drive.

Karl Fox from Keighley at last had his smart-looking Drixton Honda running properly but had not yet had time to cure its handling. He also had a sticking rear brake to contend with.

Star Classic runner Tony Myers from Hull lamented an intermittent misfire which bedevilled his 500 Seeley Matchless. "They're always the most difficult to trace," he added.

Pit Lane was absolutely full to overflowing as the second part of the session was made ready, with Philip Gilder from Malmesbury and Andy Daniels from Wigan leading away as the dreaded mist began to show itself over Greeba. Gilder said he was still finding his way on the Martin Bullock Suzukis after years on Hondas. "I'm also concentrating on getting the race set-up right rather than worrying about practice speed," he offered. However, he soon forgot that when he got going and promptly zoomed round 116.39mph from a standing start - the fastest lap of the week to that point.

Other good times included Tom Clucas precisely a second slower than Gilder at 116.29mph, Andy Jackson at 115.18 and Senior class leader Liam Quinn at 116.30. Newcomer Alex Donaldson was obviously feeling no effects from his low-speed spill in the mist at the Bungalow yesterday afternoon and roared the 750 Suzuki round at 112.61mph. But Ian Hutchinson from Bingley bettered it with 114.31mph.

Having had numerous problems with his bike earlier this week, Tony Russell, a veteran Manx Grand Prix rider, was forced to take an early retirement at Braddan when his engine seized up.

Newcomer John Burrows from Dungannon was another going about the business with considerable thought. He'd done his homework by coming over four or five times to learn the course. He was now pleased to be able recall every corner. "It's a great wee place," he said as Ryan Farquhar warmed up his McAdoo/Gortreagh Printing Kawasaki, recounting how Ryan himself had gone through the same nervous process four short years ago. He set off with practice leader Tom Clucas, but wisely did not try to tuck in down Bray.

Confirmation of the vast numbers out came from the scrutineers who examined 374 individual machines - not quite the all-time record but very near. There were a number of incidents: John Gwatkin from Northampton and Wayne Rollinson from Hornsea both crashed at Westwood near Kirk Michael. Both were helicoptered to hospital, Gwatkin with a calf injury. But Rollinson made a swift recovery and managed to get back to the Grandstand, ask - and obtain - medical clearance, and take out another bike later on! Paul Morrisey from Blackpool spilled at Governor's Bridge, Mike Smith from Yale at the Bungalow and Richard Mooney from Saintfield at Bedstead. Smith was treated by St. John Ambulance personnel and pronounced OK, Morrissey and Mooney were taken to hospital but with injuries not thought to be serious.

Finally, it's sad to report the death of TT and MGP stalwart Bill Boak. He made an immense contribution to Island motor sport in every sphere over a period of more than 30 years, particularly in the field of timekeeping. Former MCN journalist Norrie Whyte is out of action having become ill on arrival in the Island - he became one of the early MGP patients at the Island's new 111million hospital at the Strang. On a brighter note, Alan Phillips was spotted at the Grandstand looking on, having made remarkable progress since his serious crash at Jurby in late June.

The emergency practice session held in reserve for Saturday morning will NOT be used, so the final practice will be tomorrow evening (Saturday) at 6.15.

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