Five minutes behind schedule, the opening qualifying session of the 100th Anniversary Manx Grand Prix, officially sped into fruition. Post the newcomers speed-controlled laps, yesteryear Superbike pilots at 2:00 PM took to the fabled, mythical Mountain Course. First away was 25 times TT winner Michael Dunlop astride the GSX-R 750 SRAD of Steve Wheatman’s Team Classic Suzuki squad. Dunlop topped the time screens at Glen Helen, just past one second quicker than Key Racing Ducati occupant Dean Harrison. Dunlop, Harrison remained the top two at Ballaugh Bridge with third quickest Team ACR’s Craig Neve, in ultra close proximity. By Ramsey Hairpin, four racers were averaging over 130 mph, Dunlop, Harrison, Neve and reigning class Champion Rob Hodson. In just under 18 minutes 40 seconds, Dunlop completed his standing start lap, lapping at 121.877 mph. Three times TT winner Harrison (119.464), Neve (119.329), Hodson (118.097), MGP returnee Derek Sheils (117.238) soon followed, registering lap speeds exceeding 117 mph. Senior Supersport class wise, Pete Stacey backed Tom Robinson set the initial pace, lapping at almost 115 mph (114.713), finishing 4.416 seconds quicker than NCE Racing’s Jamie Williams (114.287). The session was then temporarily halted, then confirmed to be red-flagged due to an incident at Ballagarey. A moderate delay ensued before competition re-opened at 3:20 PM. Remaining stages of the session saw the pace gradually increase, as racers step by step began to find the sweet spot with their yesteryear, modern steeds. Supersport TT lap record holder Dunlop continued to lead the Classic SBK fraternity, nearing the 124-mph lap-mark, lapping at 123.984 mph, equating timing wise to 18 minutes 15.528 seconds. Adelaide ace David Johnson (122.002) jumped up to second on the live timing leader-board, overhauling third fastest racer in TT history, Harrison (121.445). Immingham’s Neve (121.192), fellow ‘130 Mph Club’ member Hodson (121.137), rapidest racer at last month’s ‘Race of Legends’ Derek Sheils (120.32), finished respectively third, fourth, fifth, sixth quickest. In terms of the aforementioned Senior field, below fifteen seconds covered the top six fastest, podium finisher last year Williams (117.195), Chris Cook (117.051), Team ILR with Mark Coverdale’s Victor Lopez Santos (116.94). No.1 plate holder Dan Ingham (116.526), prior pace setter Robinson (115.957), James Reveley (115.755). An impressive eighth fastest was top newcomer, protégé of multiple TT winner Chris Palmer, Joe Yeardsley (114.984). Added MGP first-timers banking highly creditable lap speeds included David Rigby (112.902), Marcus ‘Spartacus’ Simpson (111.222), Ryan Whitehall (108.854) and Wilson Craig Racing’s Eddy Ferre (108.669). Photo credit: Mark Corlett, Nick Wheeler Words by Stevie Rial #dontletfearcontrolyou
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