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Manx Grand Prix
MGP News
Saturday Evening Practice 23 August 2003

The ninth and final practice session enjoyed good conditions, though there were some damp patches remaining from overnight rain and occasional showers during the day.

There was a five-minute delay while an ambulance attending a non-race related casualty was cleared from the course.

First away were all classes except Classic and Ultra Lightweight, with newcomer Jason Kerridge from Elstree and fancied winner Ian Pattinson from Weardale at the front of the field. Needless to say Pattinson was soon well out front on the road, with Alex Donaldson from Limavady next.

Last night's session had seen comprehensive changes in the practice leaderships, with Philip Gilder from Malmesbury taking over as fastest overall at 116.39mph on his 600cc Suzuki. With Liam Quinn from Lisburn improving to 116.30mph on Senior number plates, it throws up a fascinating prospect for the Senior race next Friday where the pair will pit their respective machines against each other.

There had been three other changes of leaderships going into this evening's final outing. Ewan Hamilton did 96.80mph to wrest the 250 Classic leadership back from Roy Richardson from Blackpool, Ian Hutchinson from Bingley took over from Alex Donaldson of Limavady at the top of the 750 Newcomers at 114.31, and Stuart Sturrock from Fife inherited the 125/400 Newcomers at 103.39 replacing previous all-week leader Alastair Bayley from Skelmersdale.

David Bell from Chester-le-Street was fairly well towards the front and pronounced himself well satisfied with his week. "Has gone according to plan," was how he summed it up.

Mark Castle from Rode Heath was looking for more top end speed, so was gearing up, hoping also to spare the motor a little bit in its mid-range output.

"Varadero Man", otherwise known as the Honey Monster John Killeen from Dublin, continued to silence those who scoffed at his sit-up-and-beg 1000cc courier bike. Many others on out-and-out racers wouldn't mind the 94mph he had been achieving.

Newcomer Robbie Silvester from Pontefract was pleased with his 600 McAdoo Kawasaki, but still thought he would opt for his own 750 come the race. "It 's an ex-Simon Beck bike built out of bits," he said. Governor's Bridge Dip and the exit from Ramsey Hairpin were the troublesome spots, where the sun had failed to get through and dry the surface. The Micron rolling road man had waited 20 years for the chance to ride!

750 newcomers' leader Ian Hutchinson said he was pleasantly surprised to be at the head of the pack, but thought Donaldson would be a threat come Monday 's race. The latter is making a second coming, having done a considerable amount of classic and short circuit racing, even though still a newcomer on the Mountain Course.

Peel's Ian Rycroft obtained plenty of room for himself as people fled from the sound of his rorty 380cc single cylinder Greeves - believed to be the first ever two-stroke bike in the Senior Classic. But it soon cleared its throat and sounded fine as it screamed off towards St. Ninian's.

Even as the clock ticked down towards closing time, the top men were still showing the keenness required to bring about victory. Bill Swallow, Tony Myers and Alan Oversby all had willing mechanics at the ready with second bikes warmed up and ready to go as soon as the jockeys pulled in on their first mounts.

Myers said he was now happy with his 500, but the euphoric feeling lasted only seconds as a misunderstanding saw him break the gear pedal on his 350 as it was wheeled to the line. Unaware that he was being pushed, he dismounted to shove the Esthwaite Aermacchi only for it to drop over on to its side. A smart bit of recovery work and a replacement pedal unearthed in the tool chest had him on his way just before the cut off point.

There were also problems for Graham Taubman from Douglas, whose Ultra Lightweight 400 Honda maddeningly sprung an oil leak. It could not be rectified in time for a second lap, so that was that until race day.

Swallow told his mechanic "don't change a thing" as he handed over the 500 Aermacchi. Dick Linton's long-stroke model is now at the limit of overboring from its original 408cc -it is now classed as being 476cc! Dick's son Mark will leave aside his similar machine and race Roger Winfield's Norton formerly ridden by Eastbourne's Mick Robinson.

As the clock ticked down, Doug Snow still had a moment to adjust the twin shock suspension units in an effort to marry the set-up to the font fork adjustments made earlier.

There were four incidents: newcomers Paul Earney from Dromore and Andrew Kirkwood from Haynes fell at the Graham Memorial and Laurel Bank respectively. Earney sustained a hand injury; Kirkwood injured a foot. Simon Perkin from Stockport spilled at Governor's Bridge and was taken to hospital with a suspected shoulder injury. And Liam McAleer from Balbriggan stopped and overbalanced against the straw bales at Laurel Bank. After a breather (perhaps following a scare he'd experienced?) he was cleared by a travelling marshal to continue.

Two classes' previous best speeds were beaten tonight. In the Ultra Lightweight 125/400 Keith Taylor from Crook improved from 106.95 to 107.14mph; in the 125/400 Newcomers Stuart Sturrock from Fife improved from 104.16 to 104.53mph. An earlier lap at 107.77mph credited to Alastair Bayley from Skelmersdale was later corrected to 101.83.

So the final leaders are: Senior Liam Quinn 116.30mph, Junior Philip Gilder 116.39, Lightweight Norman Kneen 110.71, Ultra Lightweight Keith Taylor 107.14, 750 Newcomers Ian Hutchinson 114.31, 400/125 Newcomers Stuart Sturrock 104.53, 250 Newcomers Darren Burns 106.88, Senior Classic Alan Oversbury 104.29, Junior Classic Jason Griffiths 99.92, and Lightweight Classic Ewan Hamilton 96.80.

The final word for what has been a most entertaining practice week goes to John Goodall. He won the first ever Classic in 1983 and is still going well on the original machinery - albeit that the 500 has acquired a four-valve head. "Still wobbling round," was how the modest Haverfordwest rider described his continuing faultless performances.

It's the first race day on Monday - the Newcomers and the Senior Classic. Don't be late!

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