The re­turn of MCG

Few of John Mcguin­ness’s vic­to­ries on the Snae­fell Moun­tain Course have been tougher than his lat­est – in the Ben­netts Se­nior Clas­sic TT this year.

Classic Racer - - CLASSIC TT - Words: John Wat­ter­son Pho­tographs: Ciaran Broad, Peter Faragher, John Wat­ter­son

SE­NIOR

Af­ter a 15-month bat­tle back from se­ri­ous in­jury, TT leg­end John Mcguin­ness ad­mit­ted vic­tory had rarely felt sweeter than this one on the hum­ble 500cc Paton twin. “Af­ter ly­ing on my back­side on Port­stew­art golf course af­ter crash­ing at the North West 200 in May 2017, I never thought I’d make it into the win­ner’s en­clo­sure on this course again. “My back was frac­tured in four places, my ribs were bro­ken and my leg was in half.” Mcguin­ness was all for a come­back in the TT this year on the Nor­ton, but an­other set­back wrecked his hopes. “This win is re­ally spe­cial,” ad­mit­ted the 46-year-old, with more than a glint of sen­ti­ment in his eyes. He praised the way that his fam­ily,

spon­sors and friends had kept their faith in him through­out. “This feels amaz­ing,” he added. Still not quite en­joy­ing 100 per cent mo­bil­ity, Mcguin­ness ad­mit­ted that he felt more com­fort­able on the bike rather than walk­ing around. He looked the likely favourite for the tour-lap cur­tain-raiser to the clas­sic meet­ing from the first lap of a heav­ily-frag­mented and re­duced week of qual­i­fy­ing. The More­cambe ace was quickly up to speed on the same Roger Win­field Paton that he had rid­den to suc­cess in the same event two years ear­lier. Proudly bear­ing the Lan­cashire Rose on his crash hel­met – sim­i­lar to fel­low road rac­ing leg­end Ge­off Duke – Mcguin­ness led the four-lap race through­out.

He took one sec­ond per mile out of clos­est chal­lenger Maria Costello, on Swiss owner Peter Beug­ger’s sim­i­lar Paton, in the open­ing nine miles to Glen He­len. Jamie Coward, rid­ing Ted Woof’s ul­tra­com­pet­i­tive Manx Nor­ton, had taken over sec­ond po­si­tion by Ram­sey where Mcguin­ness con­tin­ued to ex­tend his ad­van­tage by an av­er­age of one sec­ond for ev­ery mile of the course. Hav­ing pow­ered along Sulby Straight at 142.2mph, a stand­ing start lap of 20min 29.097sec (110.510mph) gave Mcguin­ness an ad­van­tage of 38 sec­onds over Coward. Costello, in turn, was 1.8s down in third, fol­lowed by Chris Swal­low on the Lins­dell En­field and Lee John­ston on the Davies Mo­tor­sport Honda-4. Seven sec­onds cov­ered sec­ond to fifth,

but Mcguin­ness con­tin­ued to pile on the coals at the front. A lap two speed of 110.676mph proved the best of the race, al­most two sec­onds quicker than his opener, con­firm­ing a 1m 11s ad­van­tage over Coward, John­ston had re­placed Costello in third, tak­ing more than four sec­onds out of Coward’s Nor­ton in the process. Costello was vis­i­bly los­ing pace and it tran­spired that she was suf­fer­ing gear­box prob­lems with the Ital­ian twin. Among the 14 rid­ers out by half-dis­tance were Ian Lougher, who got no fur­ther than Union Mills on lap one with John Chap­man’s

MV Agusta; fel­low for­mer win­ner Olie Lins­dell (Sulby); 2018 top TT new­comer Davey Todd (Greeba); Bill Swal­low (Bal­laugh) and rid­ers’ li­ai­son of­fi­cer John Bar­ton (Bal­lacraine). Also out early on was Alan Oversby on the Davies Mo­tor­sport Honda, while Michael Rut­ter had stopped to make ad­just­ments on the Ri­p­ley Land See­ley – his open­ing lap took him more than 59 min­utes to com­plete. Mcguin­ness en­tered the pits for a splas­hand-dash fuel stop af­ter three laps with a lead of 1m 32s over John­ston, who had moved in front of Coward by 1.3s. But with John­ston also pit­ting and Coward go­ing straight through on a non­stop run with the Nor­ton it was he who was sit­ting pretty in sec­ond place on cor­rected tim­ing. Costello had dropped an­other place to fifth be­hind Swal­low by the time she en­tered pit lane, where the de­ci­sion was swiftly made to re­tire as her bike’s gear se­lec­tion is­sues were wors­en­ing. The Northamp­ton­shire woman re­ceived a warm re­cep­tion from the crowd on the Grand­stand as she walked away dis­con­cert­edly. Even af­ter a fuel stop, Mcguin­ness still en­joyed an ad­van­tage of more than 47 sec­onds with 28 miles re­main­ing. Not sur­pris­ingly, Coward put up the quick­est fi­nal lap of 107.153mph, but Mcguin­ness av­er­aged more than 109mph for the race to win by a clear mar­gin of 1min 12sec from the Heb­den Bridge man. “I felt like cry­ing com­ing over the moun­tain on the fi­nal lap. I was talk­ing to the bike. I’ve got my weird rit­u­als on this course, such as talk­ing to my old mates David Jef­feries, who crashed at Crosby, and Gus Scott who died at Kirk Michael. I al­ways think they’ll be look­ing down on me.” Ad­mit­ting that he was tired, he did say that he had en­joyed ev­ery minute of the race. “I’ve been back hav­ing bar­be­cues and a cou­ple of beers lately. My leathers fit me like a con­dom,” he quipped. “This is prob­a­bly the best bike on the grid, but you still have to get it home. I had bad luck the first three years with small is­sues stop­ping us each time.” Run­ner-up Coward was 25sec ahead of Lee John­ston, sug­gest­ing that Ted Woof’s Nor­ton was prob­a­bly the best bike he had ever rid­den. John­ston had been con­fused in the pits, un­sure who or who hadn’t pit­ted. “I cruised off out the of the pits and my next board showed P2. But then it went to P4 +15 and P4 +20 so I had to put the ham­mer down to get back on the podium.” It was his first ride on the Davies Mo­tor­sport Honda. New Zealand domi­ciled Chris Swal­low rode an ex­cel­lent race to fin­ish fourth on the En­field. He also man­aged to ride the full 150 miles on one tank of fuel and was only four sec­onds off the podium at the fin­ish. For­mer Se­nior MGP win­ner Michael Rus­sell grabbed the last of the sil­ver repli­cas on the Iz­zard Rac­ing Nor­ton. Ex-moto3 rider Danny Webb was sixth on Tony Dun­nell’s sim­i­lar ma­chine, fol­lowed by James Hil­lier (CSC Rac­ing Honda) and 67-yearold Chris Mc­ga­han on Mau­rice and Ann Hughes’s Honda-4. The fi­nal bronze repli­cas went to Richard Wil­son (Drix­ton Honda), Joey Thomp­son (Nor­ton) and Phil Mcgurk who again av­er­aged more than 100mph on the BSA Gold Star.

LIGHT­WEIGHT

With Bruce An­stey keep­ing a close vigil, stand-in Lee John­ston won the Dun­lop Tyres Light­weight Clas­sic TT on Pad­gett’s 250 Honda. Rid­ing for the fac­tory sup­ported Honda UK team in his reg­u­lar day job, the diminu­tive Ul­ster­man ad­mit­ted that he’d re­ally en­joyed rid­ing the two-stroke. “Clive Pad­gett made one of my child­hood dreams come true by let­ting me ride this. I’d have loved to have rid­den th­ese when there was a class for them at the TT,” he said, af­ter win­ning at an av­er­age speed of al­most 116mph. Ris­ing star, fel­low countryman Adam Mclean, was one sec­ond ahead of Ian Lougher at Glen He­len, nine miles into the race. John­ston was five sec­onds down in third, but it later tran­spired that he had al­most come to a stand­still at Bal­laspur where Manx­man Dan Sayle had crashed heav­ily, suf­fer­ing mul­ti­ple frac­tures. By Ram­sey the lead was al­most four sec­onds to Mclean over Ian Lougher on the Lay­law Rac­ing Yamaha, but John­ston was mak­ing up ground and was only half-a-sec­ond be­hind the Welsh­man. An open­ing lap of 19min 27.622sec (116.329mph) gave Mclean a 4.2sec lead on the Binch Rac­ing TZ over new sec­ond-place man John­ston, with Lougher an­other 3.3s down in third. Dean Har­ri­son, who had been only three tenths of a sec­ond down on John­ston at the first time check, was still hold­ing onto fourth place in front of Michael Sweeney and Joey Thomp­son. John­ston was catch­ing up hand-over-fist and at Glen He­len on lap two he was a mere 0.892 of sec­ond be­hind Mclean on cor­rected tim­ing. It was only a mat­ter of time be­fore he took the lead and at Bal­laugh a 1.8 sec­ond ad­van­tage was con­firmed on transpon­der tim­ing. Mclean was not giv­ing up with­out a fight though and de­spite a fly­ing lap of 117.463mph by John­ston, the lead was only 1.7s to John­ston at half-dis­tance. Lougher had slipped 17.8s be­hind Mclean. De­ci­sively, John­ston lost time in the pits and with it the race lead. At Glen He­len on lap three Mclean had re­gained the ad­van­tage, al­beit by one tenth of a sec­ond, with Lougher now one full minute be­hind the pair in third. The Pad­gett Honda cer­tainly ap­peared quicker on the largely flat-out stretch to

There was con­fu­sion at the start when Josh Brookes, James Hil­lier and Michael Rus­sell all had last-minute prob­lems, but they were all al­lo­cated late starts fur­ther down the grid. Har­ri­son led Gary John­son (Team York Suzuki) by 2.5 sec­onds at Glen He­len, with Michael Rut­ter a sim­i­lar mar­gin be­hind on the big Win­field Yamaha. Well-placed Philip Crowe, on one of two Team Clas­sic Suzukis, re­tired at Bal­laugh, with other early no­ta­bles side­lined in­clud­ing Derek Sheils, Mark Her­bert­son, John Bar­ton and Joey Thomp­son. Late starter Hil­lier had stopped the Ox­ford Prod­ucts Du­cati to make more ad­just­ments. Tank­ing down Sulby Straight at 173.9mph, Har­ri­son’s lead had stretched to nine sec­onds over John­son at Ram­sey Hair­pin, with Rut­ter still 2.5s down on John­son. Lo­cal man Conor Cum­mins, who lives in the town of Ram­sey, was get­ting to grips with the Pad­gett’s 500cc V4 Yamaha and was up to fourth by the end of the lap, only four tenths of a sec­ond off John­son. An av­er­age speed of 125.475mph gave Har­ri­son an ex­tended lead of 19sec over new sec­ond place man Rut­ter. Late starter Brookes was up to eighth on cor­rected time with the Ro­tary Nor­ton, lap­ping at 121.380mph. He was in a rush as he had the evening boat to catch! Har­ri­son was 25sec clear of Rut­ter at Glen He­len on lap two, but Cum­mins had leap-frogged an­other place to third, one sec­ond ahead of John­son. Luck­less Rut­ter re­tired from his third race in suc­ces­sion, this time at Bal­lacrye, el­e­vat­ing Cum­mins yet an­other spot to sec­ond. Saiger had also moved up the or­der to fourth. Har­ri­son’s lead was 37.5s go­ing into the pits for fuel at half-dis­tance, hav­ing chalked up the fastest lap of the race on lap two at an av­er­age speed of 126.041mph. With Cum­mins 3.3s up on Gary John­son, Aus­tralian David John­son re­tired the Team York Suzuki at this point. Cum­mins lost time with a slower fuel stop for the 500cc two-stroke, ex­tend­ing Har­ri­son’s ad­van­tage to 56sec. Gary John­son’s race was over on the other Team York Suzuki at Quar­ter Bridge on lap three, so Saiger jumped up two places to sec­ond at Glen He­len as a re­sult of John­son’s re­tire­ment

MY BIKE WAS A BIT QUICKER THAN HIS, BUT HE SHOWED ME THE WAY THROUGH THE TECH­NI­CAL BITS, IT WAS A BIT SLIP­PERY IN PLACES EARLY ON...

and Cum­mins’ slower pit stop. At Ram­sey, Har­ri­son’s lead was 57.9s over the Aus­trian, with Cum­mins an­other 8.9s down in third. Ul­ster­man Paul Jor­dan was up to fourth at 18sec, in turn 5.2sec ahead of Manx­man An­drew Dud­geon on cor­rected tim­ing with his Kawasaki. Po­si­tions re­mained much the same as the lead­ers pow­ered down Bray Hill to com­mence their fi­nal lap in steadily fail­ing light. It was all change again at Bal­laugh where Har­ri­son’s lead was up to 61sec over Saiger, with Cum­mins next at 10.5sec and fel­low Ram­sey man Dud­geon now fourth fol­low­ing the re­tire­ment of Jor­dan at Han­d­ley’s Cor­ner on the Mis­tral Rac­ing ZXR. RAF man Rus­sell had worked his way up through the field nicely from 17th at quar­ter­dis­tance to eighth, fol­low­ing Jor­dan and Davey Todd’s re­tire­ments, but prob­lems in the clos­ing miles rel­e­gated him back to 13th at the close on the Honda. Har­ri­son, Saiger, Cum­mins, Dud­geon and Jamie Coward (14th on lap one) all won sil­ver repli­cas, while Mikey Evans, For­est Dunn, Sam West, Ben Rea and Al­lan Brodie grabbed the only bronzes on of­fer. “I wasn’t 100 per cent on the open­ing lap, I felt a bit wooden,” ad­mit­ted Har­ri­son af­ter re­peat­ing his 2017 vic­tory. “I did feel that if I’d needed to go faster I could have done, but it’s an old bike so I wanted to bring it home for the lads.” He thanked the crowd and the mar­shals for mak­ing it such a great event and at­mos­phere. Cum­mins was pleased with his podium po­si­tion on the 500: “I couldn’t ask for a bet­ter bike. It was bril­liant,” he said. “It was like go­ing back to my roots on the 125.” And if that wasn’t ex­cit­ing enough, Cum­mins’ wife Danielle gave birth to their first child three weeks later. Con­grat­u­la­tions.

John Mcguin­ness at Lau­rel Bank.

John Mcguin­ness af­ter his Se­nior win.

Michael Rus­sell picks his line through Kirk Michael in the Se­nior.

Chris Swal­low tucks in tight on his way to fourth in the Se­nior.

Se­nior win­ners’ en­clo­sure.

John Mcguin­ness’ Hail­wood Pa­rade Lap.

Adam Mclean pins and pulls at pace in the Light­weight.

Clive Pad­gett, Lee John­ston and Bruce An­stey.

Brad­dan Bridge al­lows the sun­light through to find Horst Saiger on the num­ber one Kawasaki.

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