Monday 23 September 2019

Emotion, drama and death stack up at the Manx GP

Corry Corner

Derek Sheils is totally focussed in the Senior Classic TT where he finished sixth. Photo Baylon McCaughey
Derek Sheils is totally focussed in the Senior Classic TT where he finished sixth. Photo Baylon McCaughey

Jack Corry

There was more success for local riders at the Classic TT and Manx Grand Prix, held over the past week.

Like the TT in June, the meeting was plagued with bad weather which delayed the whole proceedings, but thankfully all races went to post and the final day's racing was actually brought forward to avoid more bad weather that was heading towards the island.

With all the success came the shock news that Skerries rider Andy Farrell has announced his retirement after standing on the podium once more in the Junior Manx, and that he wouldn't compete in any more races during the week.

The Classic TT started in a very emotional way, when New Zealand rider Bruce Anstey returned to the 'Island' to compete in the Lightweight race after a two-year absence, battling cancer.

The brilliant Anstey was told last year to prepare his own funeral, but he returned to his favourite course and dominated the 250 class, taking his sixth Classic TT win and third 250 race, and probably his most emotional.

In the winner's enclosure after the race, an emotional Anstey paid tribute to the Padgett's team, saying: 'It's awesome to win. I can't believe it. Everyone, the team, Clive (Padgett), my family have just been awesome.

'I was right in the zone, but on the last lap I was really nervous and just short-shifted. I was not trying to go fast, just get it to the end.

'The last two years have been really tough. If it wasn't for Anny (his partner) I wouldn't be here.'

It was also an emotional day for local Manx rider and top sidecar passenger Dan Sayle, who returned to race in the class that nearly killed him last year in a horrific crash, and the eight-time Sidecar TT winner finished in seventh place.

The star of the race was 18-year-old James Hind who, despite a speeding penalty in the pit lane of 30 seconds, produced a brilliant last lap of 116.601mph, having fought back from lying sixth going out on the final lap to finish in third place.

Ian Lougher, who was riding one of Eddie Laycock's 250s, finished in fourth place, while Davy Todd was second.

John McGuinness delivered a Mountain Course masterclass in a restarted three-lap Senior Classic TT race after the original race was red-flagged following an incident at Ballaugh. The incident saw Chris Swallow from New Zealand lose his life, and the experienced Classic rider leaves behind a wife and family.

The win was the third in the class for McGuinness following his victories in 2016 and 2018 and the fourth in a row for Roger Winfield's outfit. It meant that McGuinness has now won 26 races around the Mountain Course.

Maria Costello, a regular around the Skerries and Killalane courses, finished in an excellent fourth place, but it was Dubliner Derek Sheils, competing in his first 500 Classic race, who took the Greenall Racing Honda to a fine sixth place and the last of the silver replicas.

The Junior 350 class saw Lee Johnston lead for the first lap and a half, only to retire at the Gooseneck, leaving Jamie Coward in to take his first win over the Mountain Course, after being runner-up for the past three years. Michael Rutter finished in second, with Dominic Herberton third, and Derek Sheils went better in this class, again at his first attempt, when taking a brilliant fourth place.

Dan Sayle was again in fine form, finishing sixth, while Paul Jordan was fighting a tough battle on the only single cylinder AJS, which was way down on power against the Hondas. Paul rode a great race to finish in 10th place and was the last of the Silver replica winners.

The final Classic TT was the Superbike race and it was as dramatic as you could get. Michael Dunlop was back to his old form and he took the early lead ahead of Dave Johnston and Conor Cummins, with Sheils up to fourth.

Micko Sweeney was out in his first Classic Superbike TT, as was Andy Farrell, and despite a shortage of practice laps Sweeney was in 12th and Farrell 18th.

Dunlop came in to refuel at the end of lap two and also made a wheel change, and he dropped 10 seconds by doing this, but yet he still led. Sheils was still fourth, with Sweeney up to 10th and Farrell 16th.

Dunlop's lead at the end of the third lap was now 10 seconds ahead of Johnston, with Sheils now in a podium position but being hunted down by James Hillier who was only five seconds back in fourth.

Hillier, meanwhile, had moved into third by Ballaugh Bridge on the last lap, but only 0.2 seconds ahead of Sheils, with Cummins moving back into the top five.

With riders jostling for the final podium places, the dramatic news came through that Dunlop was a retirement at Hillberry and Johnson moved into the front at Cronk Ny Mona to take the chequered flag with a final lap of 125.150mph. Dunlop's bike had run out of fuel.

Sheils made a dramatic last-sector charge with a final lap of 124.494mph and made up over two seconds on Hillier from Cronk Ny Mona to finish runner-up, 1.5 seconds ahead of Hillier, although Hillier later reported issues that saw him forced to restart his machine.

A delighted Sheils said: 'The race went ok, but I struggled a bit with arm pump, but the Greenall guys built me a great bike. I gave it all I had over the mountain and made sure that I hit every apex and gave it a big handful on the way out and I was delighted to get my first podium.'

Sweeney was up to eighth as the riders went out on their final lap, with Farrell in 14th place. But two excellent final laps by the Skerries riders, with Sweeney posting a speed of 121.338mph and Farrell 118.417, saw Sweeney take a brilliant sixth place and Farrell an excellent 11th, with both riders taking home silver replicas.

Sweeney was delighted the way the race went, saying: 'I only got four laps in practice on the bike as I was a late replacement in the team, but everything went well and I really enjoyed the bike and the race.

'I want to thank the Mistral racing team for a great bike, and the way they made everything possible for me.'

Veteran Denis Booth took the last of the bronze replicas, finishing in 24th place.

James Hind was showing his real class in the Junior race, the first of the 'Proper Manx Grand Prix Races' and getting himself into the Tommy Club with an opening lap of 121.773mph, but he unfortunately retired on lap two, leaving Nathan Harrison in front.

The Manx rider was another fairytale story as he was just back racing after a life-threatening crash at the Jurby Airfield, and he led Stephen Smith and Andy Farrell across the line at the end of lap two.

The race had been shortened to three laps after a long delay, but Harrison was in fine form and took the win from Smith by three seconds, with Farrell taking another podium in third. Denis Booth finished in 26th, Stuart McCann 30th, Tommy Henry 36th and Jordan McFerran 37th. Dave Butler was an unfortunate retiree on lap three while lying eighth.

James Hind made up for his retirement in the Junior race to take the Lightweight by nearly 30 seconds from Francesco Curinga, with Dave Butler taking the final podium place in third. Last year's double Ultra Lightweight winner, Darryl Tweed, finished in 11th, with Tommy Henry 25th. Sarah Boyes finished in an excellent 10th place in the Ultra Lightweight race, despite recovering from her crash at the Ulster Grand Prix, with Nigel Moore back in 13th.

The second Lightweight race saw the same 1-2-3 to give the teenager Hind a fantastic double. Tommy Henry finished in 20th, with Martin Currams 23rd and Robert Cairns 24th. Sarah Boyes went one better in the second Ultra Lightweight race, finishing in ninth, and this was good enough for her to take home the Leslie Ann award for the best performance by a female. Nigel Moore took home another replica, finishing in 15th.

The Senior race was brought forward from the traditional Friday finale, and it was another win for the Manx rider Nathan Harrison, who led home Stephen Parsons by 17 seconds, with Brad Vickers third.

Darryl Tweed joined the Tommy Club with a lap of 120.124mph on lap two and he finished in fourth. Damien Horan was 11th but lucky to start after a crash in the Junior race. Dave Butler finished in 21st, with Tommy Henry in 32nd and Denis Booth 35th, Jordan McFerran 36th and Stuart McCann 38th.

Fingal Independent