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Manx Grand Prix
MGP News
Monday Morning Practices 18 August 2003

Overnight showers dampened roads most of the way around the Snaefell Mountain Course and made conditions tricky for competitors practising shortly after dawn this morning.

With all classes catered for concurrently, first away at six o'clock were Paul Lennon from Banbridge (600 Junior Honda) and Bob Simmons from Ramsey (250 Classic Suzuki). Lennon easily got away first as Simmons push-started the little T20 Super Six and struggled to clear its crankcases for the first hundred yards.

Good conditions for Saturday evening's opening practice had seen Peel's Tom Clucas lap at 112.79mph on his 600cc Yamaha, but there was little hope of that remotely being approached as riders tested out where the slippery patches lay following the first rain for well over a fortnight.

Clucas claimed this morning that his actual time was 40 seconds longer than it need have been. "I caught up the tail-end of the first session's riders and was flagged in on a short lap," he said. If that was deducted, it would have given him 19minutes 24seconds, an average speed over 117mph!

No official times were being taken, but first rider to complete a lap was Ray Porter from Lifford riding his 600cc Suzuki, having switched to Mona's Isle mode from Saturday's Ulster Grand Prix at Dundrod. Ray won last year's Newcomers 750cc class and had been due to ride in the TT but was injured and was forced to sit it out. His opening lap this morning was about 25 minutes, an average speed of around 90mph.

There was a very brief halt to the starting order while plastic tape was removed from the centre of the road on the point of the original TT and MGP starting line. It transpired that it was a strip which had been installed for the photo finish cameras of the cycling races.

Some of the new arrivals were caught by the scrutineers for having unwired wheel spindles, but most were able to rectify the shortcoming with judicious use of a universal drill which seemed on permanent loan.

The Honda ridden by John Kileen from Dublin again appeared with full courier attachments, and more detailed examination revealed it to be a Veradero model. Just the job for a damp morning.

Early returnees reported plenty of slippery patches, though no problems with lack of visibility. Indeed, many were so pleasantly surprised that they cracked on for second laps. Philip Gilder from Malmesbury took a brief precautionary stop-over for a minor rear suspension tweak, while late risers included Nick Jefferies, who admitted to a degree of nervousness as he set out for an exploratory lap on the Morris Holdings Molnar Manx Norton ridden last year by Jason Griffiths. Watching over proceedings was 1966 Senior MGP winner Tom Dickie, enjoying the stardom of a major feature in Classic Racer Magazine.

Graham Taubman from Douglas recovered from an early flap when the battery of his CBR Honda was found to be flat and did two laps, punctuated by a stop to clean his helmet visor.

A number of riders received "visits" from officials pointing out infringements of procedure when pulling in at the end of laps, but no red cards were issued. One who shall remain anonymous had apparently been intending to go straight through but changed his mind at the last seconds and swung over too hard for comfort.

The session continued until seven o'clock, with a couple of early birds managing three laps, claiming that the roads were drying on the upper stretches, though under the trees on the Glen Helen section wet patches still required deep respect.

With no times being issued, the class leaders so far are: Senior Liam Quinn 111.28mph, Junior Tom Clucas 112.79, Lightweight Norman Kneen 108.78, Ultra Lightweight John Richards 103.43, 750 Newcomers Stephen Oates 106.09, 125/400 Newcomers Alastair Bayley 95.16, 250 Newcomers Darren Burns 93.53, Senior Classic Alan Oversby 101.31, Junior Classic Bill Swallow 95.09, Lightweight Classic Ewan Hamilton 93.46.

The next practice is this eveing at 6.15, roads closing at six o'clock.

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