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Manx Grand Prix
MGP News
One Week to Go! 13 August 2004

Just over a week to go, and the scene is set for another exciting Manx Grand Prix. Already a few early arrivals have pitched camp at the back of the Grandstand and in a few days it will be impossible to move without being surrounded by the motorhomes and awnings which have become the preserve of even the most modest dealer teams in latter years.

When practising begins at 18.15 hours on the evening of Saturday August 21, first out will be newcomers. They will be formed up in batches and be compulsorily escorted on their first lap by travelling marshals. Once the various groups have reached Kirk Michael, non-newcomers from the Classic and Ultra Lightweight will take to the course. The returning escorted newcomers will then be flagged off on "short" laps and if time permits will soon afterwards have the chance of a further (non-compulsory) escorted lap if they wish. The second main portion of the session (19.15) will cater for Senior, Junior and Lightweight classes (no newcomers).

Although early morning practices at either the TT or MGP will definitely not happen from 2005 onwards, perhaps the last has not been seen of them just yet. If adverse weather conditions place demands on practising for this year's Manx, there is provision for early morning sessions on Friday August 27 and/or Saturday August 28. Either way, the Manx MCC will have the "honour" of having hosted the last ever early morning session, as the previous one was the scheduled dawn outing on the Wednesday of MGP Practice Week last year, August 20 2003.

Qualifying times for this year's races are: Senior and Junior 23 minutes (98.42mph), Lightweight 24 minutes (94.32), Ultra Lightweight and 750 Newcomers' 25 minutes (90.55), 125/400 Newcomers' and Senior Classic 27 minutes (83.84), Junior Classic 28 minutes (80.55) and Lightweight Classic 29 Minutes (78.06). Ray Cowles may have passed his 80th birthday but retains a great interest in the Manx. Perhaps forgotten is that he competed himself in 1960, 1961 and 1963, before becoming forever identified with Selwyn Griffiths and son Jason Griffiths, with whom great success was achieved. Ray has also backed countless other TT and MGP riders and this time provides one of his famous G50 Matchlesses for Jamie O'Brien from Abergavenny. The Cowles name will also be on Jamie's RS250 Honda for the main Lightweight race.

All the way from South Africa will come Piet Potgieter, who is down to pilot a 996cc Ducati in the big class of the Newcomers and the Senior. He has "form" in winning the S.A. Battle of the Twins series in 2002 and finishing runner-up last year.

Still battling away for his much-sought-after (estate agents'-speak!) 100mph lap, Bill Rice from Moira in Northern Ireland has such a very small amount to find on the 630cc Anderson Honda. At present he is stuck on 99.97mph and hopes the resurfacing works on a few of the bumpier corners may just be sufficient to crack the ton this time.

Liam Quinn from Lisburn, Co. Antrim, will be hoping for a less exciting end to his Manx races than that of last year's Senior. He was running second up to Windy Corner on the last lap when the throttle stuck open on his 750cc Suzuki. He scrambled round via the gravel trap and deemed himself fortunate to rescue third place behind Paul Duckett and Ian Pattinson.

There's a double ambition for John Richards from Chesterfield. He says he would like an MGP 100mph medal aboard his 500cc Classic Manx Norton then win the Ultra Lightweight on his 400cc Yamaha. They are no idle claims, as he has a 116mph lap on a 500cc three-cylinder NSR Honda already in the bag. For good measure he also has a ride in the Junior on an R6 Yamaha.

Getting married as soon as the Manx is over will be New Yorker Karl Smolenski. First he plans to ride a Velocette in the 500cc Classic, then an RS125 Honda in the Ultra Lightweight and finally walk up the aisle with Alita Howard in Douglas on Monday September 6th!

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