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Manx Grand Prix
MGP News
Monday Evening Practices 18 August 2003

Riders really got down to business this evening, with conditions pretty good all around the Snaefell Mountain Course. Promptly at 6.15 the Senior, Junior and Lightweight classes opened proceedings led away by four of the top men - David Bell, Philip Gilder, Tom Clucas and Ray Porter.

Clucas was in the second pairing, but swiftly shot past Bell and Gilder to take the lead on the road. He did 115.31mph with Porter at 114.27. But on the second their positions were reversed, with Porter upping to 115.72 and Clucas slightly slower at 115.07.

Clucas later said he had eased up a trifle because the gearbox was getting "clunky", but the effort made by both was plain to see as they pulled up. Sweat was pouring from their foreheads but they soon recovered after taking a swig or two of water.

Many riders pronounced themselves satisfied with two laps in nearly perfect conditions, although the fast men were not yet fully content with their suspension settings. But lack of fuel perplexed Kenneth McCrea from Tynan. His engine cut out at Signpost but he was able to coast to Governor's Bridge and induce the final few drops to squirt along Glencrutchery Road.

"I can't understand it," he said. "It's the same bike I had last year and at the TT and it did two laps OK then," probably discounting that the good weather and a further year's experience was probably dragging him along at greater speeds.

One man with plenty on his plate is former top Island athlete Martin Bullock. He has so many bikes under his wing that he was unable to say for sure whether there were ten or 11! His riders are Philip Gilder, Ian Pattinson, Paul Corrin, Gavin Bell, Roy Richardson and Carolynn Sells, though the latter at least has her own bike.

The Preston Jackson Brothers arrived back more or less together and both just left their 600s in the hands of father Alan Jackson, the ex-world Formula Two Champion. The idea was to grab their 750s and squeeze in third laps, which they did with a couple of minutes to spare. Andy had had an interesting experience in an earlier outing when he encountered a straying sheep near Guthrie's.

Meanwhile, David Bell said he'd enjoyed his rapid two-lap gallop, but there was "room for improvement" on his suspension settings, both fore and aft. Reminded it was still only Monday, he cheered up no end.

It was a warm night to get the best out of two-strokes, and the heat caught out Norman Kneen a little. "Running a tad rich," was how brother Kenny summed it up.

Mark Castle, who is still rueing a spill at the Bungalow when leading the Newcomers' last year, was looking good on the 600 Yamaha, but admitted it was a step up from his 2002 400. "I'm enjoying it though," he offered as he ran to grab the 400 Honda for the second part of the session graced by twice previous MGP winner Jason Griffiths, finding life very different on John Turner's 350 Honda twin compared to the 1000 R1 Yamaha he's ridden at Dundrod two days before.

Dean Silvester from Stanstead was "flying" on the smart 996 Ducati run by Steve Caffyn. It is the former mount of Dave Morris and was once tried out by Gary Carswell, though the latter didn't get on with it against his more usual four cylinder bikes.

And Ken Davis from Blackpool was content with the performance of the 600cc Dara Brady Honda. "No problems as yet," he smiled.

Problems there were though for a few of the transponders, which need to be fully charged. Not all were and therefore did not register. Even more difficulty arose when one bright spark inadvertently parked his bike right across the sensor strip, sending the system temporarily into orbit.

In general, though, the automatic timing system run by HS Sports now seems settled and will be of immense benefit to riders, officials and spectators, particularly come race day.

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