Mike Hose became the most successful rider in the 30-year history of the PRE-TT Classic with a brace of wins in this year’s sun-kissed event on the outskirts of Castletown.
The excellent John Watterson takes us through the ins and outs of what happened at the PRE-TT 2018.
He edged one win clear of Bill Swallow when he took the opening Singles event on the Saturday, before cementing his place firmly in Billown Course history the following day with an 18th victory. That came in the Lightweight 250cc event, in itself a new record as it raised Hose onto six wins in the class, all on the same Ariel Arrow, one ahead of close rival Ewan Hamilton and Bob Jackson. Hose arrived in the Isle of Man armed with a battery of six different machines for an allout assault on the annual curtain raiser to the TT Festival. First time astride Ian Garbutt’s AJS 7R he wasted little time getting to grips with the bike in the singles race, an event he had previously won on three occasions over a period of 15 years on a two-stroke Bultaco TSS. 2017 winner Rich Hawkins got off to a flier on his Ducati, but Hose was ahead halfway round the first lap – and there he stayed. At half-distance he had a 1.5 second advantage over Mark Herbertson on Alan Hermiston’s similar 350cc AJS. In the final couple of laps he managed to eke out that lead to a winning margin of 3.954 seconds. Hawkins took third, 17.5s behind
Herbertson, with three other Seeley 7Rs – in the hands of Keith Dixon, Dave Matravers and Meredydd Owen – completing the top six in front of the leading 250 of Keith Shannon. “It’s the first time I’ve ridden the bike, but I took an early advantage as I was a bit more confident getting round the oil spillage at Ballawhetstone on the opening lap,” explained Hose. Herbertson agreed: “The oil was a bit disconcerting and I decided that safety was better than falling off. He had the edge on me and got away, so I just kept going.” Hawkins said that he had given the Ducati a load of revs off the start and was happy with what was at least his seventh podium at the PRE-TT Classic. Shannon had also led the 250cc race throughout on his Cotton Telstar. He’d built up a seven-second lead over Will Loder’s Greeves Silverstone by halfway, a margin extended to 17 seconds at the close when he claimed his third 250cc singles win in succession. Loder had started from the sixth row of the grid after what he described as a nightmare in practice. “It was a bit of a tall order, I had to straighten my bike after someone ran into the back of me on red flags.” Bob Millinship of Hanbury was third, having encountered a problem with his Caffrey
Ducati. “No heroics, I just kept it steady,” he said. Ewan Hamilton gave Hose a harder time in the Lightweight 250cc race the following afternoon. Despite making a better start, Hose had been demoted to second place by Hamilton at the end of the opening 4.24-mile circuit. He then went up the inside of the Scot second time round Cross Four Ways corner, only to again lose out on the long drag back into Castletown past Great Meadow. At half-distance there was only 0.158 of a second between the pair, with Hamilton again to the fore on the Suzuki. Jeff Ward was also well in the mix on his similar mount. Very little covered the three machines as they powered down the start and finish straight line astern. Then, all of a sudden, Hose had a 1.36-second advantage on Pete and Sue Coogan’s Arrow. The lead was up to 4.2 seconds after five laps and doubled again to 9.6s at the completion of the sixth and final circuit.
“I couldn’t get clear of Ewan to begin with. He blocked me well on the tight turns, he was riding fairly but I knew that I had to get rid and make a break for it so I upped the pace late on.” Hamilton revealed gear problems with his Suzuki, but praised his rival for riding a tremendous race. “It was my first time back after a couple of years and I was a bit rusty early on, I didn’t qualify well.” Ward was annoyed with himself for overshooting Ballabeg Hairpin on the brakes, losing time. He was four seconds down on Hamilton at the close and 21.3s up on Brian Mateer, whose fellow Ulsterman, Barry Davidson, was fifth. Dominic Herbertson also scored a PRE-TT double, but he so easily could have walked away with a hat-trick of wins on the Davies Motorsport machines. The Hexham man won both the 350cc and 500cc races, but quite literally threw away a third when he came off the 500 Honda-4 exiting Cross Four Ways on lap two of the 850cc event. Herbertson’s maiden win on the tree and wall-lined public road course came in the Senior after a great race with Alan Oversby on a sister bike. Steve Ferguson grabbed the start on his Greenhall Racing Honda, but was soon relegated to third by the two Davies’ team riders. Oversby, by far the most experienced of the pair on the course, held the lead until lap three when he and Herbertson swapped places at the front, but there was rarely more than halfa-second between them either way. At three-quarter distance in an exciting eight-lap contest the lead was 0.194 of a second in Herbertson’s favour. Oversby grabbed the reins back on lap seven and the pair were side-by-side powering down the bypass for the penultimate time. At the chequered cloth, Herbertson took the verdict by 0.251 second to register his first PRE-TT Classic win. “That was unreal,” he exclaimed. “Alan dished out a lesson or two, I have a lot more to learn yet. “He showed me his front wheel at Stadium corner on the last lap and I thought that he had me, but he was duffed-up by backmarkers and I nipped past him on the sprint to the line. “The fans like to see good races, so I hoped they enjoyed that,” said BoltonLe-sands man Oversby. “I had him, but I selected the wrong gear coming out of Castletown Corner and couldn’t get going, so he slipstreamed past.” Mike Hose finished third on the Ripley Land G50 at a 40-second margin. “It was a lonely ride, but I got the bike back in one piece so I’m well happy,” said the Moreton man. Best of the course newcomers was Anthony Nicholls of Dhoon on the Petty Somerfield Norton. Win number two for Dom Herbertson came later the same day after another close contest with team-mate Oversby in the 350cc Junior. But the sting was taken out of this event when it was red-flagged twice, the first time
for a lap-one crash at Cross-four-ways, then some while later in the restart when the race was hit by a sharp shower of rain. Oversby had led the initial start, while Barry Davidson got the jump at the second attempt. He was less than one tenth of a second down on Ferguson at the end of the opening lap with the lead four riders covered by a fraction of a second. Ferguson held on for two more laps until Herbertson leap-frogged into the lead. With four laps completed he was 1.398 of a second up on Oversby, with Ferguson 0.08 of a second astern in third. Rain fell on some areas of the course next time round, leading to confusion with heavily waved flags and ultimately a red flag as the conditions rapidly deteriorated.
The result was declared on the positions after four laps. ”It was the right call,” said Herbertson, but Oversby was disappointed as he was just getting his hand in, although admitting he’d had a monster slide at Castletown Corner. Ninety minutes earlier, Ferguson had won a race of attrition in the 850cc event. Ivan Lintin, on John Chapman’s MV, and pole-setter Oversby both suffered technical problems on the warm-up lap and failed to make the start. Dom Herbertson was running away with it after the opening circuit with a 4.3-second advantage. But he tipped in too early at Cross Four Ways second time round and hit what he described as ‘rubbish’ at the side of the road to end up on the seat of his leathers. With Hose retiring on the same lap it left Ferguson with a huge advantage of 19.8 seconds after four of the eight laps. At the finish, the Prenton man was 26.5s to the good on the Greenhall Racing Honda-4, with Welsh veteran Bob Owen a popular second on the Seeley G50. The latter had come under severe pressure from the Paton of Dave Matravers, who was only one third of a second in arrears at the close. “That’s a real result on the spare engine,” beamed Ferguson. “We lost the No.1 motor earlier and the Greenhall boys worked hard to put the spare in.” Owen was unaware that he had finished on the podium until he was guided into the winners’ enclosure. “I looked back at Ballabeg and saw Matravers coming, so I had to get going.” It was a great result for Taunton man Matravers in only his second year at the PRE-TT event. Former World GP sidecar driver, Wolfgang Stropek, finished 11th and best newcomer in his course debut on a Seeley Matchless G50. James Cowton won the Geoff Duke Junior Superbike race for an unprecedented fifth year in succession. Astride what was a new bike to him, Dave Binch’s 1992 Yamaha 250, prepared with the assistance of his regular turner Peter Berwick, the Driffield rider won by a substantial margin of 22.552 seconds from Ryan Kneen. There was disappointment for ex-gp regular Bernard Fau right at the start when his Chabanol TZ250 refused to fire up and he was left paddling on the bypass in what was his
debut appearance at Billown. There were no such issues for Cowton, Kneen and top sidecar TT passenger Dan Sayle who led the way at the first commentary point, Cross Four Ways, 2.5 miles into the race. Cowton had a five-second lead at the completion of the first circuit, and he continued to pull out a second-per-mile next time round when he was a mere 0.065 of a second short of his own lap record set in 2014. It was as close as Cowton got to the record as the Yamaha’s clutch began to slip. He later explained that a new clutch had been fitted prior to the start and it had been troublesome from the start. “I burnt the clutch off the line so had to keep feeding more adjustment each lap.” While his lead continued to grow, he was perhaps fortunate that his closest two rivals were also experiencing issues. Sayle had problems with the brakes on his 1994 RS250 Honda. He was also making adjustments at the lever end as he went round: “I kept winding the lever out, but the more I tried the worse it got. I couldn’t stop the bike in the end.” He lost second place to fellow local Kneen as early as lap two, but managed to hold off Colchester’s Gary Vines to hold onto the final podium place. Kneen – who suffered a severe leg break in a beach-cross event in 2017 – admitted that he had feared he would never race a bike again, and had found Rob Brew’s TZ250 quite cramped. He had not enjoyed a good start as he had been passed by a few up the inside into the first bend. Despite all the issues, Cowton’s race time was a full 10 seconds inside the race record of four years. Eddy Wright and Kieran Clarke scored a hattrick of sidecar wins, including the open final. Riding a thunderous 1070cc Moorespeed Windle BMW, the Tadcaster pair were pushed hard by Welshmen Keith Walters and Alun Thomas (1000cc Windle Honda), until the latter pair’s luck ran out with a spin at the final corner. The opening heat, one day earlier, had seen Wright and Clarke lead all the way in the four-lapper to win by 2.5 seconds at the chequered cloth. Thirsk veteran Tony Thirkell crossed the line third with Trevor Johnson on another big-bore BMW, the driver later claiming that it was a good way to spend his pension. In similar conditions, Wright and Clarke also led the second heat from start to finish, stretching out a 14-second lead thanks partly to a record lap on the third circuit. They needed all of that advantage as they were later slapped with a 10-second penalty for a flag infringement, so the winning margin was a less convincing 4.7 seconds from Walters and Thomas. Thirkell and Johnson completed a repeat 1-2-3, enjoying a great battle for the runner-up spot until their BMW blew an oil pipe at the last corner. They had to push and shove the last few yards to the line. Weather conditions were most certainly less-predictable four hours later when a nearfull grid came to the line for the final – minus the unfortunate Thirkell and Johnson. Wright and Clarke again enjoyed a fast getaway, but Walters/thomas were 0.108 of a second ahead at the end of the first lap. With rain being deposited on parts of the
course, Wright/clarke had grabbed the lead back on lap two by eight tenths of a second. Walters and Thomas refused to let go and snatched the lead back at Cross Four Ways on the final circuit, only to lose it on the brakes into the last corner with a spin on the saturated roads. “It was very slippery in the closing stages,” said winner Wright. “Keith’s good in the wet, a great driver, but he got caught out this time.” The meeting confirmed Wright and Clarke as the most successful driver and passenger in the history of the PRE-TT Classic. Uppingham’s Andy Nourish and Dutchman Michiel Leeflang brought their 900cc Nourish Weslake into third spot after fifth and 16th places in the heats. They obviously enjoyed the wet conditions. Local rider Mikey Evans, who scored a rare Senior/junior Manx Grand Prix double last year, took the honours in a severely shortened Superbike event. Riding Graham Wilcock’s ZXR750 Kawasaki, his task was made easier when Ivan Lintin retired after the warm-up lap with throttle issues on his Chapman Racing RC30. Jamie Coward was an early threat, but he pulled up after a single lap to leave Evans with a 9.5 second advantage over Peter Boast’s OWO1 Yamaha with two laps down. The lead was out to 13.8s after three laps and even more at half-distance when the race was red-flagged because of the deteriorating conditions.
The result was declared on the order after three laps when Mike Hose was third on his 750 Kawasaki, eight tenths down on slick-shod Boast, but in turn a mere tenth of a second in front of Dennis Booth on the 1100cc Suzuki. Evans’s fellow Manxman, Darran Creer, won the support race at an absolute canter on a similar 750 Kawasaki. He established a lap record for the race at 90.755mph on the final lap.
Above: The 350cc Singles podium featuring Mike Hose (centre), with daughter Victoria, runner-up Mark Herbertson (No.79) and thirdplaced Rich Hawkins (far right)
James Cowton rounds Iron Gate on his way to recording a fifth successive win in the Junior Superbike Post-classic race. The Driffield rider suffered fatal injuries in a crash during the final day of racing in the Southern 100 on the same course in July.
Jeff Ward takes the long left-hander at Williams’s on his 250 Suzuki. He was third in the Lightweight race.
Davies Motorsport team-mates Dominic Herbertson and Alan Oversby were virtually inseparable throughout the meeting.
Dom Herbertson sits in Alan Oversby’s slipstream through the fast left-hander known as Williams, halfway round the 4.25-mile public roads course in the south of the Isle of Man.
Welshmen Keith Walters and Alun Thomas (Windle Honda) lead Tony Thirkell and Trevor Johnson (1070cc BMW) towards Cross Four Ways.
Steve Ferguson of Prenton powers down Castletown Bypass on his way to victory in the 850cc Classic race on his Greenhall Racing Honda-4.
Local rider Mikey Evans won the Post-classic Superbike race by almost 14 seconds on the Wilcock Consulting ZXR750 Kawasaki.
The podium finishers in the 250cc Singles race with Keith Shannon (53) flanked by runner-up Will Loder (21) and Bob Millinship. Also pictured is race sponsor Martin Stratford-parsons and Natsuki Soutome of Japanese organisation General Incorporated Association CSA which provided handmade medals for all of the race winners
The sidecar podium for both heats was identical, with winners Eddy Wright and Kieran Clarke (sporting an Afro-hairstyle) in the centre, runners-up Alun Thomas (far left) and Keith Walters, and (right) Tony Thirkell with passenger Trevor Johnson.