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Manx Grand Prix
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Practice Starts Promptly 24 August 2004

Having lost Monday evening's session due to bad weather, competitors were anxious to put in some qualifying laps. So it was a relief when the start was made promptly at 6.15, even though the threat of showers remained.

First off was a six-strong party of newcomers escorted by travelling marshal and former double MGP winner Tony Duncan, these being the remaining riders who, for various reasons, had not been able to complete Saturday's conducted lap. They were Neal Champion, Mike Noble, Brian Purdy, Ian Hutchman, Simon Briggs and Trevor Anderton.

Next away - 15 minutes later (once the newcomers had passed Kirk Michael) were newcomers who had served their "sentence", along with both classes of the Classic and the Ultra-Lightweight category. Before that, three riders from the Lightweight class were given priority - Gavin Bell, Barry Davidson and Carl Roberts. The reason was that they wished also to ride other bikes in the bigger racing classes.

Just as the last of the main pack was despatched, Davidson hammered the 250 Honda twin back through the Grandstand. And the determination to not waste time was demonstrated by the almost-immediate reappearance of Champion for his first unescorted tour.

Conditions were reported to be fair, with some occasional damp patches and the odd bouts of mist. But in general it was obvious that it would easily be possible for the front runners to get in three laps. However, most settled for two.

Carolynn Sells did only one before switching from her 400cc to her 600cc bike, and reported she had had a fair run, citing occasional mist from Joey's to the 32nd.

Bell looked calm and collected as he handed over the 250 having run in the RS motor at steady gait, which for him meant a "leisurely" 105 or so.

But looking anything but calm was Bud Jackson, who recounted a hair-raising tale of being clipped by another rider at Hillberry. It must have been close as the end of his clutch lever had been snapped off!

Among A-list "celebrities" sighted around the paddock helping out in various ways were TT winner Ryan Farquhar and former Manx regulars Russ Henley and Vin Duckett.

Great interest in the appearance of two Italian exotics. No, not Gina Lolobrigida and Sophia Loren, but the very tasty replica Gilera four ridden by Pat Sefton and the Paton twin in the charge of Steven Linsdell.

1984 Historic TT winner Dave Roper halted the Arter G50 to tighten loose handlebars, but the ex-Peter Williams Matchless (sans mag wheels) needed more extensive work than mere ring spanners. The fairing read Domiracer, but a Plumstead single, not a Bracebridge Street twin, it most certainly is.

The first main session was given an extra five minutes as part compensation for the delay in accommodating the escorted newcomers, so it was 7.20pm when the bigger classes got going. A few spits of rain and descending gloom threatened to spoil their party, but the the Two Bullocks first away looked as if they meant business - Tommy Clucas and Ian Pattinson on Martin Bullock's 600cc Hondas, allegedly riding under "instructions" from the gaffa.

Clucas was first back, but Pattinson was riding with some caution as he felt out a new rear shock absorber unit. A new battery had also been fitted after the original went duff on Saturday and gave him a 59-minute lap!

Martin Bullock said his front-running pair had kept fairly well to the script, but said they were still trying too hard in only the second practice. Needless to say, this was contradicted by both jockeys.

The mist began to clamp down on the upper reaches of Snaefell as the clock ticked over eight, and Alan Jackson on the mighty Wilson and Collins Kawasaki said he couldn't manage better than third gear while enshrouded for a mile or two. Brother Andy did two laps on the 600.

Dublin newcomer Ken Doherty was revelling in it all, and had the 750 Suzuki humming on all of the four laps he helped himself to by judicious planning in getting out early in each half of the evening's programme.

Scrutineers examined a record 389 individual machines this evening, 257 of which had also been done to no avail the night before.

Provisional fastest lap of the night was that of Peel's Tommy Clucas, at 112.63mph on lap one and 112.32 second time as conditions deteriorated. Clucas also has the fastest lap so far, at 115.61mph from Saturday evening, when the weather was considerably better.

Incidents this evening were all of a relatively minor nature: Simon Briggs hit the bales at Cruickshanks and continued but was black flagged at Governor's Bridge; Bernie Wright spilled at Governor's but was uninjured; Mark Braithwaite crashed at Graham's Memorial but escaped injury; Alan Marshal hit the wall at Douglas Road Corner in Kirk Michael, carried on and was black flagged at Sulby; Ian Rycroft and Robert Ogden hit the bales at Creg ny Baa but continued; Kenneth McCrea slid off at the Bungalow and received treatment for a cut finger.

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