The Pre-TT Classic lived up to the title with some absolutely classic racing warming the spectators on a cold, overcast day at the 4.25-mile Billown Circuit. Vantage point for the morning’s races was Cross Four Ways, a tight right-hand bend; famous for late braking manoeuvres.
The first race was the 250cc Lightweight, into which some Post-Classic 125cc machines had been allowed; hopefully a separate race will be held for them in the future; when entries numbers are higher. The hole shot was taken by Keith Shannon, but the first to reach us was Ewan Hamilton; he was 100m ahead of Loris Hunt and Mike Hose. Richard Ford held fourth on the Jackson Suzuki. At the end of the lap Ewan Hamilton had displaced Ford. At Cross Four Ways on lap 2 Hamilton was well clear of Hose, who had nicked second from Hunt. Ford had regained third; whilst in the 125cc class Hefyn Owen was well in command.
Hamilton’s chance of victory was over soon after he began his fourth lap; the engine seized at Balladoole. This left Hose and Hunt to battle it out at the head of the field. Hose led at Cross Four Ways on lap 3; but that was reversed on lap 4 as the struggle continued. On lap 5, they were inches apart as they lapped two back markers; Hunt having the advantage. That was reversed at the end of the lap. Hunt led by a metre as they took Cross Four Ways for the final time and his superior top speed allowed him to keep Hose at bay on the final 1.25 miles; the margin of victory was 0.65s. Hefyn Owen took the 125cc honours by 29s from newcomer Russell Roebury; who was riding a machine that had been garaged for the better part of 20 years.
Next race was the Geoff Duke Junior Superbike race which had a mix of Post-Classic 250cc two stroke machines, several 600cc four stroke machines, plus one 750cc twin. The pattern of this race was set on lap one. Chris Moore was fastest away from the lights and led by 20m from Tom Snow at Cross Four Ways. Newcomer Marcus Simpson was third on his 750 Ducati; with Andy Sailor first of the 600cc machines in fourth. The order was the same on lap 2 as they powered way from us towards Church Bends. Any chance of victory for Snow melted away when he ran wide at the final corner; Castletown Corner. The order remained unchanged; just the gaps widened in a race that saw no retirements.
The Consolation race was next; this gave us some close racing at the sharp end, between Michael Titchmarch (350 Honda) and newcomer Simon Lehane (500 Honda). Lehane led for most of the race and at Cross Four Ways on the final lap; but the more powerful 500cc machine prevailed on the fast straights in the final stretch. Richard Stott (500 G50) took the third step of the podium.
The final race of the morning was the Junior Classic for 350cc machines. Adam McLean was quickest away from the lights; but was outbraked into Iron Gate by pole sitter Dominic Herbertson. At Cross Four Ways Herbertson had opened a lead of 100m over the chasing pack of McLean, Jamie Coward, Rob Hodson, Peter Boast, Alan Oversby and Barry Davidson. Herbertson was on a charge and led by 2.97s from Hodson as they began lap 2.
Second time around at Cross Four Ways, Herbertson was 3s clear from Hodson, who had Coward, McLean and Boast in close attendance. Herbertson was 3.65s ahead at the end of lap 2; Hodson was second; with Coward, Boast and McLean tightly packed behind him. Herbertson led by 5s at the end of lap 3 and was set for another win, barring mechanical problems. Hodson had gained 30m on the scrap for third in which positions changed several times in the middle laps of the race. By lap 5 Coward had edged clear of McLean and Boast and began to hunt down Hodson. On lap 5 Coward raised the class lap record to 91.16mph and was just 1.5s down on Hodson. Herbertson continued untroubled at the front and duly took victory by 4.6s; setting a new race record. At Cross Four Ways on the final lap, Coward had forced his way past Hodson; but it was not to be, Hodson used his race craft to be the faster out of Castletown Corner and secure second by 0.11s. Both had lapped faster than the old lap record; Coward setting the new mark at 91.274mph. McLean, Boast and Steven Elliott filled out the top six of a great race.
The afternoon’s Senior (500cc) gave us more of the same, with close racing through the field. Loris Hunt was a retirement on the start line. Dominic Herbertson was pole sitter and he took the lead from the off. At Church Bends he was a few metres ahead of Mike Hose; they were closely followed by Alan Oversby and Jamie Coward. The top six was completed by Adam McLean and Rob Hodson. At the end of the opening tour Coward’s passing of Oversby was the only change to the order. The action was excellent as they swept through the S bend and away down the straight through Great Meadow. At the end of lap 2, Herbertson led hose by 1.5s, with Coward 1.4s further back. Herbertson had increased his lead noticeably on lap 3 at Church; Coward was right with Hose and by the end of the lap was in second; but only 0.03s ahead of Hose. It was at this point that spits of rain began to fall at Church Bends and it could be seen that there was more organised rain across the circuit in the Ballabeg area. Hose overshot at Cross Four Ways on lap 4; ending his race. The wet conditions forced Coward to ease his pace; his hard compound tyres not suited to them. Herbertson rode to his boards to win by 10.6s; Oversby passed Coward to take second by 2.11s. Hodson, Davidson and Hefyn Owen completed the top 6.
The start of the Senior Post Classic Race (essentially Superbikes) was delayed to allow the track to dry; this led to race distance being cut by one lap as the warm up lap had been completed. Jamie Coward was a notable withdrawal; he has bigger fish to fry on the Mountain Course over the next two weeks. On the first lap Paul “Potchy” Williams led by 20m from Andy Sailor as they swept between the white walls at Church. 50 metres further back were the vastly experienced Mike Hose and young newcomer Joe Yeardsley (there to learn the track for the S100 in July). Williams led by 2.3s at the end of the opening lap; with Sailor 3.5s ahead of the Hose, Yeardsley duo. The lead 2.5s at the end of lap, with Sailor 3 clear of Hose and Yeardsley. Then it was all change; Williams was forced to retire, gifting Sailor the lead. At Church, Yeardsley had edged ahead of Hose by 5 metres. Sailor continued to hold the lead through lap 4, but having selected a full wet front tyre he was now paying the price on the completely dry track. On lap 5 at Church, Hose was the new race leader from Sailor and Yeardsley; all covered by just 10 metres. On the final lap Hose set his best ever lap of Billown and edged away to win 0.58s from Yeardsley; a real new talent. Sailor was left to rue his tyre choice in third place.
The final race was the second outing for the Sidecars. First race winners Rod Bellas / Glenn Dawson were slow off the line and had some fairing bashing early on that may have damaged the gear lever. In any event, their engine sounded distinctly off, and they retired after struggling manfully for 3 laps. At the sharp end we were given a real treat with the outfits changing positions throughout the race as slipstreaming and outbraking came into play. On the first lap, as they skirted the churchyard walls David Lissaman / Rob Child led by a metre from Danny Quirk / Dylan Weston with Tony Thirkell / Trevor Johnson in third ahead of Marvin Vermeulin / Jouk Hahn. Despite several changes around the circuit that was also the order at Church at on lap 2. Lap 3 saw Quirk in the lead from Lissaman, Vermeulin and Thirkell. The final lap at Church saw Quirk leading by 5m from Thirkell with Lissaman 10m back in third. Quirk managed to hold off all advances to take his maiden win as a driver by 0.28s from the vastly experienced Thirkell; with newcomer Lissaman beating fellow newcomer Vermeulin to third place by 0.12s. A great race to end the meeting; one superbly organized by the committee; who are always welcoming; long may that continue.
Report and images by Richard Radcliffe. For more info check out our dedicated Isle of Man TT News page Isle of Man TT