Classic TT: Practice hit by red flag and poor weather on Isle of Man

Michael Dunlop (Suzuki XR69) and Michael Rutter (Ducati) leave the line on Wednesday night
Michael Dunlop (Suzuki XR69) and Michael Rutter (Ducati) leave the line on Wednesday night

Practice for the Classic TT and Manx Grand Prix was halted again on Wednesday night as a frustrating week for the organisers continued on the Isle of Man.

Two unconnected incidents near the 13th Milestone shortly after the session commenced for MGP Senior, Junior and Newcomers plus Classic TT Formula 1/F2 riders forced a red flag situation.

A decision was then taken to cancel the session due to the length of time required to clear the scene and deteriorating weather conditions around the 37.73-mile Mountain Course.

Riders had been warned of damp patches around the circuit before the off and were cautioned to expect more persistent rain as the evening progressed.

After a five minute-delay to the scheduled start time of 6.20pm, Michael Dunlop on the Team Classic Suzuki XR69 and Michael Rutter on a replica Ducati of the machine raced by his father Tony were first to set off down the Glencrutchery Road.

Dunlop – who had won three times in succession on Steve Wheatman’s Suzuki before an electrical issue ruled him out of last year’s Motorsport Merchandise Formula 1 race – was on the move and clocked 170.8mph through Sulby as he averaged 123mph to the Bungalow.

The Ballymoney man (114.29mph) and Dean Harrison on the Steelcote Solutions Kawasaki were the only riders to complete laps in excess of 110mph ahead of Russ Mountford on the Silicone Engineering Racing Kawasaki (109.72mph) and Rutter (105.47mph).

Those riders who made it to Kirk Michael before the red flags came out continued through to the finish line while the remaining competitors were stopped on the course, eventually returning to the Grandstand in the opposition direction.

It has been a trying few days for the organisers, with Saturday’s opening session cancelled due to poor weather and Tuesday’s schedule also falling victim to poor conditions.

Only one session has been held so far, with Ryan Farquhar setting the fastest speed on Monday on Roger Winfield’s 1100cc Harris Yamaha at 117.70mph in the Formula 1 class.

Monday’s session was also red flagged when Adrian Bowman came off at School House corner on the run to Ramsey – sustaining reported arm and leg injuries – although practice did resume afterwards with the 350cc and 500cc machines managing a single lap.

Last year’s 500cc race winner Ian Lougher headed the times on the Giovanni Cabassi/Flitwick Motorcycles Paton from John McGuinness (Winfield Paton), while Michael Rutter (Ripley Land Honda) and Bill Swallow (AJS) were fastest in the 350cc class.

More favourable weather is forecast today and tomorrow, when competitors will be desperate to clock up some miles ahead of Saturday’s opening Bennetts 500cc Classic TT.

A huge weekend of entertainment is planned around the event, kicking off in earnest on Friday with a free admission paddock carnival, which focuses on the ’50s as the clock turns back to the birth of Rock ’n Roll.

The Blue Jays, one of the UK’s leading rock and roll tribute bands, will be helping to recreate the ’50s scene in the TT paddock with tribute covers from the leading lights of the era including Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, The Everly Brothers, Gene Vincent, Little Richard, Ritchie Valens and the ‘King’ himself, Elvis Presley.

The award-winning band, who have played many of the UK’s leading venues including Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, Annabel’s and the Café de Paris, will be playing two one hour slots in the packed schedule.

The entertainment gets underway at 12noon with nine-time TT winner Charlie Williams hosting a series of chat shows with many of the leading Classic TT contenders.