Welshman Ian Lougher, riding the Team Flitwick Paton that Olie Linsdell rode to victory in last year’s race, took the honours in the Bennetts 500cc Classic TT Racenon the Isle of Man. The Welshman, known as ‘Lucky Lougher’ overcame a thirty second pit lane penalty in the process, after John McGuinness, Ryan Farquhar and Michael Rutter all retired when leading.
After a delayed start due to wet roads, the first Race of the Isle of Man Classic TT presented by Bennetts finally roared into life at 2pm.
John McGuinness was first away on the Team Winfield Paton with Mick Godfrey, a replacement for the injured John Barton, on the Dunnell Racing Norton ten seconds behind him.
With last year’s race winner Olie Linsdell a late withdrawal with a cracked frame, all eyes were on John McGuinness and the Morecambe missile powered into an eight second lead over Flitwick Motorcycles rider Ian Lougher at the first timing checkpoint at Glen Helen, with McGuinness’s teammate Ryan Farquhar holding third place, less than a second behind Lougher.
However McGuinness retired at Ginger Hall with a front brake problem, leaving Lougher to move to the front. Other early retirements on the opening lap included William Dunlop at Ballacraine and Roy Richardson at Appledene while Alan Oversby also stopped at Braddan Bridge although he did continue after making adjustments.
For the second year in a row, Morecambe’s John McGuinness heartache in having to retire was palpable, especially after setting an unofficial lap record of 112.031mph on Roger Winfield’s 500cc Paton in Friday evening’s final practice session, John had high hopes of making up for last year’s retirement in the corresponding race and everything was going to plan when he swept through the first timing point at Glen Helen, some 8.1s clear of fellow Paton rider Ian Lougher.
By Ballaugh, some 17 miles into the lap, John had extended his lead to 11 seconds but soon after it was clear all was not well as he was timed through the Sulby speed trap at 128mph, some 17mph down on the quickest speed set by Lougher. Sure enough, news soon came through that John was a retirement at Ginger Hall, a loose front master cylinder having worked its way loose.
Speaking later, a disappointed John said; “I’m massively disappointed to have retired so soon in the race as everything was looking so good. Practice week had gone well and having not had the best of years, I put my heart and soul into getting a result in this race and, ideally a win. The bike was faultless during practice week and the 112mph lap on Friday evening felt really good so I was quietly confident going into the race.”
“I was pleased to be starting first on the road and I took full advantage of the clear track in front of me. I knew Ryan (Farquhar) had a bigger tank so my tactic was to push really hard to try and make sure I had a bit of an advantage coming into the fuel stop. The track was good, conditions were good and I was really enjoying riding the bike. Everything was flowing nicely and to have an 11-second lead half way round the lap shows what kind of pace I was on and it would definitely have been a strong opening lap.”
“Just after Ballaugh though, I knew something was wrong and had no option other than to cruise along the Sulby Straight and pull in at Ginger Hall for a pint. I’ve never had anything like that happen before and to be forced out of the race by a 10p bolt working its way loose is a hard one to take. I’m disappointed for Roger and the whole team as they’ve worked really hard and it’s not cheap to get these bikes built and prepared. It’s no-ones fault though and nothing anyone could have done to prevent it, it’s literally just one of those things.”
Farquhar hit the front and established a 2.5 second lead over Lougher by Ramsey with Dan Cooper on the Specialised Glazing Solutions Team Molnar Manx Norton moving into the top three, twenty seconds behind the race leader.
Both Farquhar and Lougher were the only riders who elected to pit for refuelling at the end of the first lap with Farquhar’s 109.826mph giving him a lead of almost six and a half seconds over Lougher. However Lougher incurred a 30 second penalty for speeding in the pits, which dropped him to eighth.
After Farquhar’s pit, Dan Cooper moved narrowly into the lead, less than a second ahead of Michael Rutter on the Seeley G50 Matchless but Rutter moved into the lead by Ballaugh with Farquhar having made up time after his pit, looming less than seven seconds back in third. Norton riders Michael Dunlop (Molnar Manx) and Bruce Anstey (McIntosh Norton) were having a real head to head for fourth place with the pair swapping places over the Mountain Course.
That remained the top three at the end of the second lap with Rutter’s 109.102, the fastest single cylinder Mountain Course lap, giving him a lead of almost eight seconds from Farquhar (106.397) who held a 1.6 second lead over Cooper with Dunlop holding fourth, 2 seconds in front of Anstey who completed the top five.
However, it was all change again on a sensational lap three with Farquhar stopping at Sulby Crossroads and Rutter retiring on the Mountain Mile which meant that at the end of the third lap, Dan Cooper was thirteen seconds ahead of Lougher, who had moved back through the field with a third lap of 110.550 to keep a Paton on the podium. Anstey moved ahead of Dunlop into third by the grandstand but Dunlop came into the pits at the end of the third and retired at the Grandstand.
Lougher’s was on a charge on the fourth lap and by Glen Helen had cut Cooper’s lead to only 2 seconds. The Welshman duly moved into the lead at the next checkpoint at Ballaugh with a lead of nine seconds and brought the bike home with a final lap of 111.523, which gave him victory by 34 seconds from Cooper with Bruce Anstey taking the final podium place.
Riding Andy Molnar’s 500cc Manx Norton, former 125cc British Champion Dan Cooper had suffered a combination of a broken exhaust mount and a loose handlebar, and was always going to be up against it trying to overcome Lougher’s quicker multi cylinder Paton machine. Still, speaking afterwards, delighted with second place Dan said, “Today’s been a pretty good day having led my first TT race and finished second! I had a few problems during the race with the exhaust mount breaking towards the end of the first lap which meant I had to hold onto it with my leg whilst the handlebar was getting more and more loose as the race went on, almost coming back to the petrol tank. I wasn’t sure whether to stop or carry on but I decided I was going to carry on until the exhaust fell off but, thankfully, it didn’t and I just kept plugging away.
“Before the race, I really wanted to lap at more than 108mph so I’m well chuffed to have achieved that and had it not been for the problems, I’m sure I could have gone quicker still. It’s a bit of a shame I couldn’t have held onto the lead as it would have been a dream come true to have won but I could see I was slipping back and there was nothing I could do. We did the best we could on the day and it’s a very special feeling to be up on the TT podium. Roll on Monday where I hope to go one better in the 350cc race!”
Cheshire’s Connor Behan, riding a 61 Norton, finished fourth with Maria Costello on the Peter Beugger Paton completing the top five. Nine times TT Race winner Charlie Williams, in his first competitive race on the Mountain Course since 1984, finished a credible ninth with the added bonus of a 100mph lap on the second lap of the race, his first of the week.
Veteran competitor Dave Madsen-Mygdal, riding a Team Gimbert Honda, was the first privateer to finish in seventh.
Andrew Ryder came off at Joey’s on the Mountain section and was taken to Nobles by airmed but it was reported that his injuries weren’t serious.
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