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Manx Grand Prix
MGP News
Ian Pattinson the Favourite 30 July 2004

Three weeks to the start of practising and most of the organisation is now in place. The TT Grandstand has been busy this week with the Gibbs Aquada Manx International Car Rally, but the cars will now give way to early arrivals for the Manx. The first MGP practice session is on Saturday August 21, followed by the evenings of Monday 23, Tuesday 24, Wednesday 25, Friday 27 and Saturday 28. There will also be the traditional afternoon practice -- Thursday, August 26.

Who are the top riders for the main races? Ian Pattinson from Weardale was second in both the Senior and Junior last year, so must start favourite. Dean Silvester from Stanstead was fourth in the Senior and third in the Junior. Liam Quinn from Lisburn was third in the Senior and ninth in the Junior. Andy Jackson from Preston was eighth in the Senior and seventh in the Junior. And Maurice Hogg from Dundrum was tenth in the Senior and sixth in the Junior. But it may be a rider who finished in neither of the main races in 2003 who will come through. Tommy Clucas from Peel was out of luck with mechanical failure in both races a year ago but has since continued to shine on his own and Martin Bulllock's 600cc Hondas. He finished 11th in the 600cc Production TT, averaging 115.13mph with a best lap of 116.27mph. Not to be overlooked is Seamus Greene, from Co. Donegal, who at the eleventh hour joins the Bullock Squad. He comes with a pedigree of a 118mph lap in this year's Production TT and will have the Suzuki ridden to victory in the past two 600cc Junior races by Mick Skene and Phil Gilder respectively.

For sheer persistence it's hard to beat Douglas tanker driver Sean Collister. He has ridden virtually every year since 1980, nearly always on TZ Yamahas. A win narrowly eluded him in the 1982 Lightweight when Robert Haynes headed him home. The following year he was third in a blanket finish with fellow locals Chris Fargher and Richard Coates. This year Sean switches to a four-stroke when he campaigns a 400cc Honda in the Ultra Lightweight.

Stand by for an instant party. Stephen "Cargo" Carr from Greenisland, Carrickfergus, promises invitations to all if he can win a replica from his 400cc Kawasaki ride in the Ultra Lightweight or a 600cc Suzuki gallop in the Junior. Addition to the female ranks: Welsh animal health representative 42-year-old newcomer Sally Harmer, from Carmarthenshire, who will ride a 400cc Kawasaki. She was the runner-up in last year's New Era Single Cylinder Championship.

It's a long way from riding in the Australian 125cc grand prix championship to campaigning a BSA Gold Star in the Senior Classic Manx, but that's what Auckland's Paul Dobbs intends doing. The Kiwi was best newcomer in the 1999 Ultra Lightweight TT, taking the last of the replicas at 97.75mph on a 125cc Honda. The following year he just missed out on a rep., but was well in with sixth place in that year's 400cc race. His best lap overall is 115.70mph on bigger engined models. His aim is to lap the Goldie over the ton, which is thought might be a "first".

Another up from New Zealand is 19-year-old student Hayden Fitzgerald from New Plymouth, who will be making his debut on the Mountain Course. His pedigree includes a fifth in the 600cc NZ Supersport Championship and he says his aim is to go steady and learn the track. An average speed of 105mph aboard a 600cc ZXR Kawasaki is the mark he is setting.

More comebacks than Ronnie Barker is a jest often levelled at Richard Coates from Colby, Isle of Man. The easyJet pilot stops racing from time-to-time, only a few months later becoming unable to resist "the call". He has no fewer than 21 TT replicas to his credit, including fourth place in the last-ever 250cc Lightweight in 2002, and a lap at 115.65mph on the 250cc Vimto Honda during the 1999 Senior. For the Manx he has a G50 Matchless on which he won an MGP 100mph medal last year.

"Two good finishes will do," says 66-year-old Denis Gallagher, from Girvan in Ayrshire, modestly describing an Island career dating back to 1963. He has ridden a wide variety of machinery in the TT and Manx Grand Prix and relies on a pair of Drixton Honda twins for the Classic this year. He has finished fourth in the Junior and Senior races on past occasions.

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