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Manx Grand Prix
MGP News
Practising Under Way 21 August 2004

Practising for this year's Manx Grand Prix got under way in good conditions, with - for the first time - the newcomers given a one-lap escorted tour under the control of travelling marshals.

Chief TM Dick Cassidy led the first bunch of about 25 riders, with the Classic Newcomers rounded up into the second corral. At the back came those who had not quite been ready to go.

Once the last group reached Kirk Michael, the remainder of the first classes of the session - Ultra-Lightweight and Classic - got under way, led off by Andy Reynolds from Berkhamstead (350 Honda) and Mike Crellin from Onchan (400 Honda).

In fact, it was over 15 minutes before the newcomers cleared Kirk Michael, but those spoken to said progress behind the travelling marshals had been at just the right pace. However, the lone 125cc newcomer, Mark Edwards from Cowbridge said he lost out by being unable to keep up his corner speed, only to drop back when the more powerful 600s got cracking on the straights.

The last of the newcomers' groups were arriving back just before the last of the main bunch were setting off, but the smart ones didn't halt long before setting off again, this time at their own speed.

An amount of time was then dropped when the red flag went out while a crash at Union Mills was dealt with, but soon the session continued with the experienced Classic boys moving rapidly to the front as usual.

Looking on with perhaps just a tinge of regret was Bill Swallow, who had decided last year to hang up his MGP leathers. It marked the end of an era when he and Bob Heath dominated the Classic races for a decade.

TT star John Barton was in no rush to get going, waiting for tired muscles to ease after the afternoon's exertions playing First Division football for Marown. He was the scorer of one of the goals in a five-nil away victory over Douglas Royal!

Lots of interest surrounded the four-cylinder Gilera replica wheeled out by Pat Sefton. Absolutely immaculate and without the encumbrance of a fairing, the Arcore model looked and sounded exactly like its works predecessors ridden by Geoff Duke and Reg Armstrong in the 1955 TT.

Alan Jackson from Preston looked a little apprehensive as he tried to start the mighty 750cc Wilson and Collins Kawasaki ridden to victory in 2002 by Mark Parrett and last year by Paul Duckett. But once it was running and settled, his usual calm equilibrium returned.

New Yorker Dave Roper enjoyed a gallop on a G50 Matchless of the type he won the Historic TT on 20 years ago. It is owned by Rob Ianucchi of Team Obsolete and is an ex-Peter Williams model. He said he had kept the revs down on his first racing lap since crashing a 350cc four-cylinder Benelli 11 years ago.

Bud Jackson from Kendal was disappointed that his T20 Suzuki was running well over-rich, but said road conditions were good, a fact confirmed by brother Tom Jackson, who also settled for a single lap on a similar model.

The second portion of the session was extended by five minutes to make up for some of the time lost earlier and to take advantage of the dry roads, which looked like not going to by always the case next week.

First away at 7.35pm were John Burrows from Dungannon on a 750cc Kawasaki and fellow Ulsterman Kenneth McCrea from Tynan aboard a 600cc Yamaha. Their progress was rapid and Burrows hammered back through the Grandstand just over 20 minutes later at 110.56mph average speed. But local hope Tommy Clucas was even quicker at 115.22 - from a clutch start!

Burrows and McCrea had a rare old dice on the roads much enjoyed by spectators, but the fun had to halt as the chequered flag went out 30 seconds before they completed their second lap. Burrows had intended doing three, but acknowledged that he would have had to refuel and would not have made the time cut anyway.

Tommy Clucas interpreted sponsor Martin Bullock's instructions to go steady in a slightly different fashion to the boss, but maintained that 115.61mph was steady! He reported the bike as "breathing better" and was only troubled by the need to tighten the steering damper down a bit. It proved the fastest lap of the night.

Davy Morgan said his bike was "bouncing about all over the place" but was not troubled and no major work was called for. "Only the front end needs a tickle."

Alan Jackson liked the big Kawasaki but wanted the gear pedal moving down a bit to ease stiffness of cog selection. Former Kawasaki pilot Bob Jackson was on hand offering advice. Alan reported the as being steering very good.

Gavin Bell did a lap on his 250 and likened it to a 125, having jumped straight off his first lap run on his 600. But conditions were good and he was pleased to have the first session out of the way without much difficulty.

Fancied winner Ian Pattinson stopped for adjustments and was fortunate in being able to get going again just before Manx MCC chairman David Mylchreest came along in the Roads Opening car.

Scrutineers examined 325 individual machines.

The most serious incident of the evening was the crash of newcomer Angus McMahon of Douglas, who crashed his 600cc Yamaha at Union Mills. He received possible major fractures but was later described as "stable" in Noble's Hospital.

Former Ultra Lightweight winner Alan Bennie fell at Braddan but was not injured; John Loder spilled at Sulby Bridge but was OK; newcomer Callum O'Shea dislocated his shoulder in a crash at May Hill; and Stephen Carr was uninjured in a fall at Governor's Bridge.

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