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.
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.
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.