The Bennetts Classic TT
Where else other than the Isle of Man would you find a top current British Superbike contender, a leading female racer and an OAP all in top-six contention? In five years the Classic TT has established itself as the must-see event of its kind in the world
Our resident Island expert John Watterson and snapper legend Peter Faragher were on hand, on site and on a roll as the Classic TT happened. Here’s their report into what has become a huge event (due in no small part to the efforts of our Malc Wheeler).
Legends of the golden era, Jim Redman and Stuart Graham mixed with top names from the 1970s, such as Alex George, Bill Simpson, Mick Grant and Steve Parrish, at this year’s edition, right through to present day stars Michael Rutter, Bruce Anstey, James Hillier and John Mcguinness. With the latter man still convalescing from his North West 200 smash, Australian Brookes was drafted in to pilot Roger and Pat Winfield’s 500cc Paton in the opening race of the four-day festival. He wasted no time getting to grips with the 1972 Italian twin replica, topping qualifying with a lap of 109.5mph. By Glen Helen in the race he had pulled out almost one second per mile on the Davies Motorsport Honda of William Dunlop and the Beugger Racing Paton of Maria Costello. Already two of the MVS had gone out. Dean Harrison pulled up the Black Eagle Racing machine at Glen Vine and Ian Lougher was forced to stop when John Chapman’s triple dropped a valve approaching Greeba. Michael Rutter was the next top-10 ranked rider to go when he lost the front-end of the Ripley Land Matchless at Ballacraine. He was not injured in the fall, caused by a puncture. At Ramsey, Brookes was 21 seconds clear of Ted Woof’s Manx Norton in the capable hands of Jamie Coward. The latter had leap-frogged Dunlop and Costello who were still separated by a fraction of a second on corrected timing. Fancied runner Alan Oversby had slipped down the order after being black-flagged at Sulby Bridge with a smoking Honda. He was allowed to continue and credited with the time estimated to have been lost. An opening lap of 111.30mph gave Brookes a quarter-distance advantage of 33.2 seconds over Coward, while Costello was up to third ahead of Dunlop after a good run over the mountain. Bill Swallow was fifth on the Gleve Racing Paton, only to receive a 30-second penalty for exceeding the pit lane speed limit in a scheduled fuel stop. Dominic Herbertson and Oversby also pitted on
the two Davies Motorsport Hondas. Michael Dunlop, on the last surviving MV of the three that started, pulled into the pits to retire. Possible fuel issues were suspected to be the issue with the Kay Engineering machines. Brookes appeared to lose time mid-lap on the second circuit and was 10mph slower through the Sulby speed trap than he had been on the opener, but he was still 34.16s ahead of Coward at the Hairpin. Costello was 9.8s down in third, followed by William Dunlop at 4.9s, then a long gap to leading privateer Michael Russell on the Izzard Racing Norton. The top two both averaged in excess of 110mph for the lap, when Brookes had a confirmed lead of 38.69s. Coward’s 110.054mph was the quickest recorded by a single-cylinder machine round the course. The retirement list was growing, and among those to go out before half-distance were Alec Whitwell, Hefyn Owen, Alex Sinclair, inaugural Senior Classic TT winner Olie Linsdell and Bruno Leroy. The margin between the top two remained fairly constant, but Dunlop had moved well ahead of Costello, who had pitted for fuel at half-distance. Brookes knew he needed to press on as he also required a fuel stop. He’d extended his lead to almost 47 seconds at the Bungalow. As it happened, he needed all that and more as things didn’t go quite to plan in the pits as he had to have two goes at restarting the Paton. The stop cost him an estimated 53.6 seconds and at Glen Helen on the final lap a mere two tenths of a second separated the two front men, in the Aussie’s favour. Brookes had clearly got the bit between his teeth on the fast run through the central valley and continued to hammer it up the western coastline to Ballaugh where he had reopened a four-second buffer over the Yorkshireman. Rounding Stella Maris the lead had gone up to 14.3s and Brookes appeared to be back in control. But Coward was trying really hard on his non stop run aboard the two-valve Norton. He was more than 1m 20s clear of Dunlop in third. Costello was sitting pretty in fourth, 14.4s down on William at the Bungalow, whose splash-and-dash with the Honda at the end of lap three cost him less than 40s. The winning margin for Brookes was back up to 34 seconds, all reclaimed on that final lap. “I knew that I had a 36-second lead when I pitted and was aware that I would lose most of that in the pits, but we muffed up the stop a bit and knew that I would have to
go for it on the final circuit. “I had been careful not to over-rev the bike in the early laps to save it, but when I got my second board on that final lap showing P1 +0, I then had to let it rev,” said the popular Australian after his maiden win on the Mountain Course. “There was nothing to lose then so I gave it everything. I arrived at the traffic the best way I could have done. I managed to pass a guy on Sulby Straight just before we got a stationary yellow, so that was fortuitous. “It’s quite special to win this. It’s not a full TT, but it’s a good field and everyone is riding the bikes as hard as they can be ridden. “Conditions were quite good, a few damp patches here and there, but it’s not such an issue with these bikes as they tend to roll over them. “It’s a great honour to stand-in for John [Mcguinness] and win this for the team.” Coward announced that the Norton began to misfire on the final lap and feared that he may have been forced to stop, but it kept going and he praised Ted Woof and the boys for putting a great bike underneath him. As he spoke, in the winners’ enclosure, the tank was removed from the Manx as it had developed a slight split. His lap three of 20min 34.163 seconds was 3/100ths quicker than his lap two performance, to raise the bar for a single to 110.057mph. “I realised I was never going to win against Josh on the Paton, so it was a case of head down and arse up,” he smiled. Dunlop and Costello’s scrap for third went to the former by a margin of 12 seconds, albeit 1min 28sec down on Coward. “Maria passed me like a rocket at Crosby on the first lap, so I sat behind her for a while,”said William. “I managed to get back ahead of her at some stage, but I didn’t have an official board out there so I wasn’t too sure where I was. “I did get one approaching Sulby Bridge. I wasn’t totally sure whether to trust it, so I kept pushing. Other than hitting a few neutrals, the bike ran faultlessly.” Costello was also happy: “Of course I would have liked another podium but we’ve competed at the sharp-end against incredible names in the sport and we were in contention, I’m more than delighted to finish fourth in that company,” she said. Dominic Herbertson rode a solid race to finish fifth on the second Davies Motorsport Honda, although his father Mark’s race ended with retirement on the final lap when placed 11th on the Manx Norton. Bill Swallow salvaged sixth on the Gleve Paton, the 30-second pit lane penalty having not affected the 67-year-old’s finishing position. James Cowton, who had been ahead of Bill with one lap remaining, suffered a late retirement with a ground-down and ultimately snapped footrest bolt. It was particularly disappointing for octogenarian Dave Kenah, who had travelled from New Zealand with his Manx Norton to contest the race. RAF man Michael Russell was seventh on the Izzard Racing Norton, first of the privateers. “It’s great to just finish,” he said. “We had another engine flown in from Andy Molnar. “I caught James Cowton on the first lap, but he came past me again on the Mountain on lap two with Horst Saiger.” The top-12 was rounded off by James Hillier (Honda), Horst Saiger (Egli Vincent), Chris Swallow (BSA), Bob Owen (Seeley) and Steve Ferguson (Honda), the last of the 100mph averages. Chris Swallow’s final lap of 101.753mph replaced Philip Mcgurk’s 2016 standard as the
fastest by a Gold Star – indeed the New Zealand-domiciled Yorkshire ace became the first Goldie rider to average 100mph for an entire race over the Mountain with his Wooderson single. Best newcomer was Will Loder in 17th spot on his Seeley.
(Main picture) Bruce Anstey guns Clive Padgett’s EX-GPYZR500-4 through Guthrie’s on his way to the fastest Classic TT lap in history, an average speed of 127.496mph, during the four-lap Superbike race. (Inset) William Dunlop squirts the Davies...
Australian Josh Brookes gets both wheels of the Winfield Paton off the ground as he powers over the railway bridge at Union Mills on his way to victory in the Senior Classic TT, his first win on the Mountain Course.