Wednesday evening at the Southern 100 gave us some superb racing on the 4.25 miles of the Billown Circuit. The evening began in bright sunshine that produced a sharp difference between the open and the tree lined areas; later in the evening cloud made the light more even and less difficult on the bypass.
Tuesday senior race established a pattern followed in subsequent races involving the 1000cc superbikes and so it proved to be with Wednesday’s races. The first race of the evening was the rescheduled Lightweight Race (Supertwins; plus some 250cc two stroke twins and a couple of Moto 3 bikes). The fastest two away from the lights were Rob Hodson and Jamie Coward and they duly headed the cavalry charge into Ballabeg; with Hodson marginally ahead. Jonathan Perry, Paul Jordan, Barry Furber and Rhys Hardisty completed the first leader board. At Cross Four Ways, Jordan had displaced Perry from third. At the end of the lap the two leaders were side by side and pulling away from Jordan and Perry.
At Ballabeg on lap 2 Hodson and Coward were together; Hodson had the inside and led away from the corner. Behind them Jordan and Perry were similarly close together. Furber was fifth and edging away from Hardisty. Cross Four Ways saw one of many lead changes in this exciting race.; one that was reversed as they crossed the line to start lap 3. This lap saw Coward holding the inside line at Ballabeg; he led as they powered away towards Ballawhetstone and the “Bomb Hole.” Lap 4 and it was Hodson’s turn to grab the inside and the lead of the race. It was short lived; Coward led at Cross Four Ways. Lap 5 gave a carbon copy of lap 4; one of the overtaking manoeuvres caused Coward to offer an apology to Hodson; the bomb hole not being a place to take a liberty; even if unintentional. Behind them Jordan was secure in third, Perry held fourth, Furber fifth with Hardisty sixth and under pressure from Mikey Evans and Rob Colvin.
Both Hodson and Coward were now lapping faster than the late James Cowton’s 2017 lap record. Lap 5 saw Coward lead at Ballabeg, but it was Hodson at Cross Four Ways. They started the final lap side by side on the bypass. At Ballabeg, Hodson led by 2m; the top six remained unchanged; but Hardisty was about to be passed by Colvin who had edged ahead of fellow local Evans. Hodson held on to his lead and Cross Four Ways. Coward managed to pass on the run towards the final corner and held on to the finish, Hodson’s cause not helped by a small misfire at Castletown Corner.
Coward set a new race record at 103.674mph; beating that of Ivan Lintin from 2017; whilst Hodson set the new lap record at 105.998mph. Jordan took the final podium place. Perry, Furber and Colvin completed the leader board at the end of a compelling race.
The next race was the next race was the Ellan Vannin Senior (Superbike) Race and what a race it was with the outright lap record and the race record both blown into the weeds. Had Michael Dunlop’s team cured the handling issues from Tuesday and given the extra speed needed for the long straights; had Dean Harrison’s team cured the electrical problem that forced him out on Tuesday?
Dunlop was slow from the lights; gifting an advantage to Dean Harrison, Davey Todd, Jamie Coward and Nathan Harrison. It was an impressive sight, seeing the entire field stream through Ballanorris and weave its way to Ballabeg. Dean Harrison and Davey Todd led 5m from Nathan Harrison; Dunlop squeezed past Coward; then there was a small gap to Michael Sweeney, Rob Hodson and Ryan Kneen. Lap 2 at Ballabeg saw Harrison 1m ahead of Todd; they had eased a couple seconds away from Dunlop and Nathan Harrison; with Coward 20m in arrears. Hodson and Sweeney continued their scrap; behind them Kneen clearly had issues with his machine; he managed one more lap before parking it. Newcomer, Gary Ford came in too hot and only just stopped before the air fence.
The pace at the front was amazing; the three leaders all bettered Dunlop’s 2017 race record lap; Dean Harrison and Todd both broke the outright lap record and the 116 mph barrier; each setting his best lap speed on lap 4; the record going to Todd at 116.141mph. Simply mind blowing to someone who remembers the first 100mph lap of Billown being set.
Dean Harrison continued to resist the pressure being applied by Todd. Dunlop was unable to match their pace; still down on top speed and handling yet to be as he wanted it. He described it as “bringing a sword to a gun fight.” Behind them Nathan Harrison was keeping Coward at bay and behind that duel, Sweeney was doing the same to Hodson. Their close quarters encounters giving great entertainment to the very large crowds around the circuit. Try as they might no one could make a pass stick; but their efforts were great to watch. Dean Harrison duly made up for Tuesday’s disappointment to take a record breaking win at 114.341mph; the margin of victory just 0.094s. Dunlop took third; the impressive Nathan Harrison was fourth; Coward fifth; Sweeney took sixth just .062s ahead of Hodson. All of these riders completed the race at over 111mph.
The next race was the JCK Superport B Race. This race was for those who did manage to secure one of the 30 berths for the A Race. This race again gave great viewing for the spectators with close battles throughout the field. Grabbing the hole shot was Don Gilbert; he was 25m clear of Ty Jones, Jack Petrie and pre-race favourite Michael Russell at Ballabeg on the first lap. On lap 2 Gilbert led; behind him Jones, Petrie and Russell were in a tight group. Jones began to suffer from problems; dropped down the order, and eventually retired at the end of lap 3. On lap 3 at Ballabeg, Gilbert led; but he was being closed down by Russell; Petrie was close behind in third. Russell broke the class lap record and duly passed Gilbert to take a lead that he would not relinquish. He won by 2.2s, at a race record average of 100.974mph; the first three all averaged over 100mph. Gilbert raised his personal best lap to 102.502mph; whilst third placed Petrie set his at 112.452mph.
The Radcliffe Butchers’ A Race was one of the best ever with four riders, inches apart, at record pace in the quest for glory. To record the full details would require a book. Fastest away from the lights were Dean Harrison, Davey Todd and Paul Jordan; Michael Dunlop, yet again slower than his main rivals. Todd and Dean Harrison had stolen a 5m lead as they came inro Ballabeg for the first time. The riders were right across the track jockeying for position behind them. Jamie Coward, Paul Jordan, rising young local rider Joe Yeardsley (in his first S100) and Michael Dunlop completed the early leader board. At Cross Four Ways, Dunlop on his TT double winning machine had taken fifth.
Lap 2 saw Todd leading from Harrison with Coward third; 10m covering them. Dunlop was 20m behind them; with Jordan; Michael Sweeney and Yeardsley a similar distance adrift. Behind them there were many close battles going on to keep the spectators on the edge of their seats. Lap 3 and it was a gang of four fighting for the lead; Todd holding the slimmest of advantages.
Dunlop moved up to third as they hammered along the bypass towards Ballakeighan on lap 4. Todd still led at Ballabeg; but a good blanket would have covered the four contenders as they battled at lap record pace. Todd led at Cross Four Ways; but Harrison was the leader as the crossed the line. That was short lived, because Todd pulled out of the slipstream to retake the lead on the approach to Ballakeighan. Todd led by 5m at Ballabeg from Harrison; Dunlop and Coward followed closely. Jordan was fifth; Sweeney sixth, Rob Hodson held seventh, with Yeardsley impressing in eighth.
Laps 5 and 6 saw no change in the order at Ballabeg; but the margins remained wafer thin. On lap 7 Todd led the charge into Ballabeg; there were just inches between the four machines as they came into the corner in line astern. For Michael Sweeney luck ran out; he was forced to retire with us at Ballabeg. Going into Cross Four Ways, Coward out braked Dunlop forced him wide and ended his hopes of passing Harrison and Todd on the fast run through Great Meadow and on the drag strip from Castletown Corner to the finish line. Dunlop managed to repass Coward but had to settle for third. Todd held of Harrison by 0.344s to take his second win of the meeting at 108.424mph. Todd was delighted with his victory and gave full praise to Padgetts for preparing a perfect bike. Harrison enjoyed the race; but did not want to risk an accident by trying a last lap dive at Castletown Corner; knowing that Todd had the faster machine. Jordan and Hodson completed the leader board. Yeardsley, Nathan Harrison, Rhys Hardisty and Richard Charlton completed the top 10 in what was a simply wonderful race.
Last out, as always were the Sidecars. The cloud cover meant no blinding low sun on the bypass for them. The first lap at Ballabeg was hectic, Pete Founds / Jevan Walmsley led the way from John Holden / Dan Sayle; Ryan and Callum Crowe and Tim Reeves / Kevin Rousseau. Greg Lambert; Conrad Harrison and Wayne Lockey were having their own scrap 50m down on the leading group. Lap two saw Founds with a bigger lead from the Crowe brothers; Reeves held third; but John Holden’s ill luck continued he retired with us at Ballabeg. Soon, the race was over for the Crowe brothers; the seemingly fragile Triumph engine failing again. Lap 3 and Founds was well clear of Reeves whose engine was misfiring. Lambert seemed safe in third; Harrison was fourth, Lockey fifth with Alun Thomas / Kenny Cole sixth. On lap 5 Lockey passed Harrison to take fourth and held him off to the finish. Although well clear; Founds kept his pace for the race distance; lapping at over 100mph on the penultimate lap.