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Emerald Isle 2 - Italy 1; wins for Browne, Curinga and Johnston at MGP 2022. | Superbike News - Our Archive Motorcycle News Site
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Emerald Isle 2 – Italy 1; wins for Browne, Curinga and Johnston at MGP 2022.

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Emerald Isle 2 – Italy 1; wins for Browne, Curinga and Johnston at MGP 2022.

Race Day 1 at MGP 2022 brought bright sun, a light breeze and three races. It was a long day for the marshals and other volunteers without whom there would be no racing.

The day began with a one lap warm up (practice to mere mortals). There were plenty of machines on track; but the session was halted by two incidents, one at Union Mills one at White Gates. Both riders were okay, but the track needed clearing and air fencing replaced. The incident at White Gates was caused by a damp patch that could not be seen by the riders as it was in the shadow of a tree. There was a lack of adhesion flag being shown but the patch of damp was just on the exit where the power is put on. The cutting back of trees that have been allowed to grow as weeds on the trackside has been one my bugbears for many years; yet nothing is ever done. There are trees with memorial plaques on them; those trees simply should not be there; they are an obvious and easily removed danger. The strobe effect caused by the trees was highlighted by Glenn Irwin in June; I fully expect his concerns to be ignored by those in the ivory tower.

The first race of the day was the Lightweight MGP; cut to two laps because of the loss of Friday to the weather; and an apparent reluctance to use Sunday. Practice suggested that this would be a duel between Jim Hind and Mike Browne, and so it proved. The small number of starters meant long periods with no action for the spectators. For those who invested a small fortune in the bikes and covered the cost of being on the island; having just two laps of racing was not a high return.

At the Glen Helen commentary point; it was Mike Browne, in his first 250cc race who had the early advantage; that being 2.4s from Hind; with the effervescent Dom Herbertson in third. Ian Lougher was 4th, Michael Dunlop and Dan Sayle completed the top 6. Hind settled to his task and cut the lead to 2s at Ballaugh. Herbertson led on the road as they entered Parliament Square in Ramsey. It was obvious that Michael Dunlop was having problems as he came past; he was to retire at the end of the lap. The watch showed that Hind was on the move; he led by 0.7s as they passed the Town Hall. Herbertson was third, but now 12s down on Browne.

The Bungalow saw the lead at 1.1s in favour of Hind; Herbertson now 13s behind Browne. A lap at 117.592mph gave a Hind a lead of 1.857s as they set off on the final lap. This was a lap record for the MGP; but short of Bruce Anstey’s record from the Classic TT Lightweight (essentially the same race). Herbertson was third 17.s down on Browne; but 19s ahead of Ian Lougher. Past winner Dan Sayle and Stuart Hall completed the leader board.

On the run to Glen Helen the leaders were evenly matched; but from there Hind opened the taps. Over the bridge at Ballaugh he led by 4.6s. Meanwhile, Dan Sayle joined the list of retirements when he parked up at Black Dub. Herbertson still led on the road in Ramsey; with Browne second; he had taken the 50s starting difference and more from Lougher. The watch showed that Hind was pulling away from Browne; his lead was now 7.30s. Browne began to encounter problems and settled in behind Lougher to gain a tow across the mountain section. At the Bungalow it seemed that Hind had it in the bag; he led by 19.8s as he crossed the tram lines.

The real drama was about to begin; Herbertson was forced to retire at the 33rd Milestone. Then Hind was overdue at the Cronk ny Mona timing beam. Browne and Lougher crossed the finish line; but there was no sign of Hind. Then came the cruel news that he had retired between Brandish and Hillberry; presumably the record pace had emptied the tank of fuel. Brian Reid for one has suffered a similar fate; for him it was in the TT.

These twists meant that Mike Browne took his first win at an average of 116.924mph; something that seemed unlikely when he injured himself badly at Cookstown early in the season. The quietly spoken young man is a fine rider; more wins will surely follow. LayLaw teammate Ian Lougher took second with Stuart Hall third, justifying his big expense in buying his bike. Rhys Hardisty, the evergreen Chris Moore, and Phil Harvey filled out the leader board.

The next race was the Manx Grand Prix Junior; this race was for Supertwin machines and was previously known as the Lightweight Class. The practice form suggested that this would be a very closely fought race and one that could have a continental winner. The track conditions were just about perfect; lack of adhesion flags at White Gates and Ramsey Hairpin the only caveats.

Dave Christian in the white commentary box at Glen Helen; not in a shed in Timbuktu looking at a computer screen; confirmed that this would be race of tiny margins and run at record pace. Francesco Curinga (ILR Paton) led by a cigarette paper (0.005s) as they swept through the tricky corners and away up Creg Wiley’s towards Sarah’s Cottage. Local man, Jamie Williams (Steadplan Kawasaki), was second, with Victor Lopez (Xcretia Aprillia) 0.574s further back in third. Behind them less than 4.2s covered fourth to tenth. At Ballaugh, Williams had nipped ahead; his lead was 0.29s from Curinga; with Lopez just 0.2s down on him.

At May Hill, the afternoon stillness was broken by the sound of the raucous bikes as they approached. Curinga was first to burst into view out of Cruickshank’s; he was trying, and using most of the road. The other leading contenders used less road; most just over the centre line; Jamie Williams holding the tightest line of all. Williams had been quickest on the bumpy, technical run into Ramsey and led the race by 2.8s as they started the mountain climb for the first time. Lopez was 0.58s down on Curinga. Our top six was completed by Manxmen Chris Moore and Marc Colvin; plus Daniel Ingham.

A lap at 115.039mph gave Williams lead of 1.54s as he started the second lap; but it was from Lopez who had pulled ahead of Curinga by 3.1s. For Lopez the race was soon over; he had to retire 4.5miles into the lap at Crosby. At Glen Helen, Williams had opened the lead out to 6.3s. The lead was nearly double that at Ballaugh, and as they flashed past us on lap 2 Williams led by 14.15s; the local win was looking much more likely. Behind them Moore and Curinga were just 0.9s apart in their battle for the final podium place. There was plenty of close action to keep the attention of the crowds around the course.

Going into the pits for fuel, Williams had a lead of 14.47s from Moore, whose rapid trip over the mountain allowed him to take second by 0.75s from Curinga. Colvin, Ingham and Ben Rea completed the half distance leader board. My expectation for Eoin O’Siochru to be the leading newcomer was not being recognised; Albert Walker and Martin Morris were 10th and 11th; whilst O’Siochru was, a still very creditable, 16th.

The pit stops made little difference; Williams led by 13.305s at Glen Helen as he took the rising left hand bend onto Creg Willey’s. It was tight at the top; Moore was just 0.63s down on Curinga. This trio had 15.4s in hand over Colvin, who was secure in fourth. Not much change at Ballaugh, the lead was 13.13s; with Curinga nearly 2s ahead of Moore. As they flashed between the walls of May Hill in Ramsey; the lead was 14.4s; Moore was matching the leading due; just 1.7s down on Curinga; as the pace increased. Curinga averaged 112mph on the mountain climb to cut the lead to 11.4s at the bungalow, whilst increasing his advantage over Colvin to 4.17s.

As they went through to start their final lap of the 37.73mph course; Curinga’s lap of 111.436mph enabled him to cut the deficit to just 10.3s. At Glen Helen; Curinga had cut the lead to 7.2s but at the hump backed bridge in Ballaugh, Williams had responded to open it out to 9.2s. Curinga was clearly trying hard; right out to the kerb; as he passed us for the final time. Williams held his usual tight line and had 10.5s in hand as he began the climb of North Barrule for the final time. Curinga was faster on the mountain climb; cutting the lead to 6.4s at the Bungalow. The came the news that Williams had hit problems; slow at Brandywell, he retired at Duke’s (32nd Milestone) leaving Curinga to take the victory by 19.788s and with a new record lap of 116.475mph and record race average of 114.132mph. Moore took second; 26 years after his victory in the Newcomers’ Race; with Colvin taking third, to give us two Manx born riders on the box. Andrea Majola took fourth; Ben Rea fifth and Daniel Ingham, the final leader board place. Albert Walker completed a stellar ride in seventh to beat Martin Morris to the best newcomer award by 10.5s. An emotional Walker was surprised and delighted by his achievement. Andrew Fisher and veteran Mark Herbertson completed our top ten.

This was a fine race; shame that we cannot have a repeat later in what used to be race week.

The final race of the Saturday trio was the Senior Classic Race. This had some notable absentees; pre-race favourite John McGuinness would not be on the line due to machine problems, nor would Michael Dunlop or Michael Rutter. First to face the starter in the early evening sunshine was James Hillier (CSC Yamaha).  At the first timing beam the lead was with Stefano Bonetti; runner-up in 2019. He had the Beugger Paton 2.8s ahead of Lee Johnston (Davies Yamaha); who in turn was just 0.1s ahead of teammate Dominic Herbertson. Mike Browne was the leading single cylinder rider in fourth, on the Peter Grantham Lodge (New Zealand) Norton. Rob Hodson (Ruthless Honda) and Hillier filled out the nascent leader board. Hillier and Herbertson reached Ramsey together on the opening lap; giving the latter a 10s time advantage. Johnston was next; followed by Coward; all going well in the evening sunshine. The watch told us the Bonetti led by 3.8s from Herbertson who had team bragging rights by 0.3s from Johnston. Browne held fourth; now 13.1s down on Johnston.

As predicted by Davo Johnson in the commentary box, it was Lee Johnston who was the fastest on the haul up the mountain to the Bungalow. The lead for Bonetti was down to 1.2s from Johnston, with Herbertson back to third 2.7s down on his teammate. A lap at 109.211mph gave Bonetti a lead of 1.61s as he sped along Glencrutchery Road and off towards Bray Hill. Johnson was 2.73s ahead of Herbertson. Hillier was quick over the mountain and displaced Browne from third. Jamie Coward and Rob Hodson filled out the leader board. Nathan Harrison was best on the 350cc riders in17th; his lap was 97mph exactly.

Johnston was settling to his work and had cut the lead to just 0.9s at Glen Helen. At Ballaugh, the lead was down to 0.3s; the leading duo were pulling away from Herbertson; who was being hauled in by Hillier. At Ramsey, our watch had Johnston in the lead by 0.4s from Bonetti. Herbertson retained third, 1.8s ahead of Hillier. Johnston was rapid over the mountain; his lap of 110.342mph gave him an advantage of 7.22s over Bonetti (109.109mph). Herbertson remained third and was over 10s ahead of Hillier, whose machine was beginning to smoke.

Bonetti had not given up; he was rapid over the 9 miles to Glen Helen and cut the lead to 4.36s. Bonetti was now 23s clear of Herbertson. Hillier’s ailing machine caused him to drop to sixth behind Browne and Coward. At Ballaugh Bridge, the lead was down to 3.36s; could we have an all Italian double? It was at the famous bridge that Herbertson’s challenge was ended by a machine failure. As they passed through the square our watch gave Johnston the lead by 3.57s; but his strongest sectors were to come. He duly extended his lead to 5.805s at the Bungalow. His final lap at 111.029mph gave him victory by 8.245s. Mike Browne took a superb third place; joining the ton plus ten single cylinder club in the process. Alan Oversby, Michael Sweeney and Michael Russell filled out the leader board. James Hillier had to push his machine over the line to grab tenth. Nathan Harrison took the 350cc honours in 12th overall.

The weather seems to be set fair for Monday which will give us the MGP Senior Race and then the Classic Superbike shootout between the Kawasakis and Suzukis; all as genuine as Trigger’s brush; honest guv.

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