Thursday 20 June 2019

Irish riders prominent at rain-hit TT

Cork rider Mike Browne was flying in his first TT. Photo Jack Corry
Cork rider Mike Browne was flying in his first TT. Photo Jack Corry

Jack Corry - Corry Corner

I first set foot in the Isle of Man for the TT races in 1977, and I have seen a lot of racing there since then.

Despite missing a few years, I have never witnessed so many cancellations in consecutive days since I arrived here last Wednesday, and this lasted until what is known as 'Mad Sunday' as the weather wasn't playing ball. With constant rain and mist on the mountain section of the course, this stopped the rescue helicopter from landing, which is such a vital part of the emergency services around the TT course.

The frustration that this caused could be felt the length and breadth of the island, with fans and riders getting set to practice - and then nothing.

Saturday was due to be the first race day of the week, and that still didn't happen. It rained hard all Saturday night and yet the organisers, who work closely with the meteorological office at the airport, decided that there was a window of a couple of hours on Sunday afternoon, and thankfully this came to be.

That was much to the delight of the race fans, who had arrived on the island from all parts of the world to see the spectacle of the Isle of Man TT.

Indeed, when the first sidecar left the line at 3pm on Sunday, a loud cheer went up from the fans, akin to a goal in a football match.

Prior to the start of the TT, the Pre-TT Classic races were held on the Southern 100 course in the south of the island, and there were a few local riders in action there.

The first 250 race saw Irish champion Brian Mateer take an excellent second place, with Barry Davidson in fifth. Ashbourne rider Ed Manly took a fine fifth place in the 350 race, with Irish champion Barry Davidson retiring on lap one.

Barry Davidson stood on the bottom rung of the podium in the Post Classic Junior 250 race with a fine third behind Rhys Hardisty, while Skerries rider Andy Farrell was back out on the 750 Kawasaki that he broke the lap record on a few weeks ago in Jurby.

While it was his first road race on the bike and also a course newcomer, he was pipped by his teammate Ben Rea for fifth place.

Paul Jordan was making a rare appearance on a classic bike and he took a brilliant third place in the same race behind winner and new lap record holder Jamie Coward, with Adrian Kershaw second.

Getting back to the qualifying session on Sunday, it was Manx rider Conor Cummins, showing his local knowledge and extensive TT course experience, who came to the fore as he put in a 128.92mph lap in the Superbike class to edge out Dean Harrison, although Harrison remains fastest of the week with the time he set on Tuesday - 129.53mph.

Harrison (128.29), Rutter (127.55) and Coward (127.22) all upped their pace, although the wind and the damp patches, combined with the lack of track time, continued to keep speeds down.

Derek Sheils lapped at 123.107, while Micko Sweeney was around at 120.623, James Chawke 116.911 and Thomas Maxwell 113.950mph.

Michael Dunlop had a terrible time, breaking down at the Mountain Box on his first lap and being trapped there for the rest of the session, while in the Superstock class Peter Hickman was only a little off Cummins' Superbike time at 128.499mph, with Cummins second fastest at 127.171mph. Brian McCormack posted a late lap of 124.72mph to slot into a fine fifth place in the Superstock class, while Derek McGee lapped at 120.988mph.

Lee Johnston got two laps in on his Supersport machine and put them to good use by edging out Gary Johnson as fastest on the day. Lee's best lap of 122.926mph was well down on the 126.094mph recorded by Dean Harrison earlier in the week, but with strong winds on the Mountain it was never going to be a fast day for the lighter 600cc machines.

Derek McGee was the fastest of the Irish riders in the 600 class at a speed of 119.640mph, while Derek Sheils was just behind at 119.580mph. Micko Sweeney lapped at 117.70mph on his new Eamon Mulligan-sponsored 600 Yamaha, while TT newcomer Mike Browne was just behind Micko at 117.554mph. Manx Grand Prix winner James Chawke lapped at 116.32, McCormack at 115.39 and newcomer Ray Casey at 113.27.

Sidecar qualifying was dominated once more by John Holden and Lee Cain, but the Birchall brothers closed the gap, 114.986mph versus 114.930mph. Newcomers Terry O'Reilly and Eamon Mulholland completed two qualifying laps at a speed of 97.430, while the other Irish newcomers Mark Codd and Liam Gordon lapped at 81.920mph.

• Our TT 2019 coverage is kindly sponsored by Ollie's Place in Skerries.

Fingal Independent