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Manx Grand Prix
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Manx Grand Prix Practices Begin 16 August 2003

Practising for the 80th anniversary Manx Grand Prix got under way in fine conditions this evening. The first classes out were Classic, Newcomers and Ultra Lightweight and Ewan Hamilton (250 Classic Suzuki) from Aberdeen and Andy Miley (400 Kawasaki) from Ince Blundell had the honour of being the first pair to be flagged off at 6.35, with Miley getting the edge on the run to Bray Hill.

The 20 minute delay was caused by the presence of a civilian's car having failed to be removed before road closing. After inspection by travelling marshal and sector marshal, it was decided practising could go ahead with severe flagging precautions put in place and competitors duly warned before setting off.

An attempt to start together by brothers Karl Fox (250 Classic Suzuki) and newcomer Andrew Fox (400 Honda) from Bingley was thwarted when the older bike declined to fire up and was later wheeled away.

A steady stream of apprehensive newcomers lined up against experienced older hands but appropriate respect was shown by both categories and everyone rapidly settled into the routine which will see practising continuing right through to next Saturday evening.

Not many minutes after the final riders set off on their opening laps, the first roared back along Glencrutchery Road, led by Alan Oversby (500 Classic Norton) from Bolton Le Sands, followed by newcomer Alex Donaldson (750 Suzuki) from Limavady, getting very rapidly into the groove.

One of the favourites, Davy Morgan from Saintfield, has withdrawn from the meeting, unfortunately joining Newcomers' hot tip Guy Martin, who had not recovered from his Southern 100 crash.

Absentees noted included those who had contested the Ulster Grand Prix at Dundrod earlier in the day, including last year's Newcomers' winner Raymond Porter. Former MGP star Adrian Archibald won the feature race lapping at over 128mph. Former MGP competitor Ian Lougher was Man of the Meeting.

Last year's Ultra Lightweight winner Alan Bennie is back for a go at the Classic, having ridden in the TT in between. Carrying No. 12 in the 500, he is hoping for a repeat victory to that of "Milky" Quayle, who was that number when he won last year. "Milky" was up at the Grandstand spectating and saying he's almost fully recovered from his hefty TT Formula One crash.

Eight-times MGP winner Bill Swallow pulled in after one lap on Dick Linton's smart 350 Aermacchi. He did a 95mph lap and pronounced himself happy. Asked by the owner why he had not cracked on for a second lap, Bill replied: "no point in wearing it out", though it was not clear whether he meant the bike or the rider!

The second part of the session started at 7.20pm after the usual flap of locating the key for the Pit Lane exit gate. First off were Paul Lennon (600 Yamaha) from Banbridge and Jeff Ward (600 Honda) from Wakefield.

Two number threes set off together - Kenneth McCrea (600 Yamaha) from Tynan in the Junior class and Philip Gilder (600 Honda) from Bingley in the Senior. They were still side-by-side as they headed for Parkfield.

But there was disappointment for Billy Hughes from Liverpool whose 750 Yamaha simply cut out just as he was moving up to the line. All efforts to reignite it came to naught.

John Kileen from Dublin caused plenty of interest when he rolled up to the line astride a 1000 Transalp-spec Honda complete with sit-up-and-beg bars and panniers. On-site wags speculated on whether he was moonlighting as a courier. Maybe he'll have the last laugh if it pours down on race day.

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