|The 600cc class can always be relied upon for providing excellent racing, whether it be the short circuits on the mainland or on the roads - and the 1995 TT meeting proved to be no exception. One change had occurred from the previous year, however. With the continued growth of the class, organisers awarded it the prestigious title of the "Junior", since its inauguration in 1989 it had been known as the Supersport 600cc race, the Junior being for 250cc and/or 350cc machines. Aside from that, the race would be exactly the same with the usual protagonists expected to shine.
As the riders took to Glencrutchery Road on Wednesday June 7th, most eyes were focused on previous year winner Iain Duffus, this time a member of the official V&M Honda squad. His team mate for this race was Joey Dunlop, with likely challenges coming from, as always, Phillip McCallen (who was campaigning the CBR600 Honda in the Thunderbike Championship alongside the GP's), Nick Jefferies, Steve Ward and co.
However, for one man the challenge would be different. The New Zealand Scholarship was in its second year, an initiative funded by the Manx Government, the ACU and Motorcycling New Zealand, enabling NZ riders to travel, and compete, at the TT. In 1994 John Hepburn had been the lucky winner, acquitting himself very well, and for 1995 the recipient was Jared Gillard, who would be riding a Kawasaki ZX6R supplied by well known enthusiast Des Collins. Starting at number 44, Jared had finished practice with a best lap of 108.53mph, very impressive indeed, to finish 35th on the practice leaderboard. Like many New Zealanders before him, Jared was proving to be a more than capable TT performer. Jared had good pedigree, having successfully competed in the New Zealand "Battle of the Streets" winter series on a 750 YZF0W01 Yanaha - in 1994 he had finished 3rd in the series, behind John Hepburn and Russell Josiah.
The race immediately became a battle between Duffus and McCallen, briefly being split by Colin Gable and Bob Jackson at Ramsey on lap 1; indeed Bob was only 1 second behind the Scotsman. However, Duffus roared over the mountain and by the Grandstand he was 14.4seconds clear of McCallen, having broken Steve Hislops' 3-year old lap record. At Glen Helen on lap 2, Iain had already caught his Ulster rival and a frantic short circuit dice ensued. The pair arrived at the pits to refuel still together, but the V&M team got their man away first, another two seconds advantage being gained.
Meanwhile, Jared was steadily working his way through the field, with an opening lap of 109.23mph, which moved him to 31st on the leaderboard. The burly Kiwi had already passed many riders, who had started before him, albeit on the timesheets, from his midfield start number. A quicker lap followed at 109.43mph and, when he entered "gasoline alley", he was closely followed by American Craig McLean, who had started 10 seconds earlier. Jared was now up to 29th, ahead of many experienced TT campaigners including James Courtney, Decca Kelly, Phil Nicholls and 1994 MGP winner Brian Venables - and all of this on a standard machine, a tremendous effort. With a slick pit stop, Jared could consolidate his position and, hopefully, move further up the leaderboard in his desire to gain a much-coveted replica.
At the head of the field, the battle for supremacy raged, with Duffus the apparent favourite to succeed. McCallen was now in a determined mood after what, for him, had been a slow opening lap. Desperate to claw back time Super Mac pushed hard, the trademark elbows to the fore. At the end of lap 3, the gap was down to 13 seconds, McCallen now leading on the road, with Nick Jefferies consolidating his third place.
Surely, even he couldn't make up that much time though. Phillip was never one to give up and he was really trying hard, with the bike tying itself in knots as he swept by me at the 11th milestone.
At Ramsey hairpin, with just 9 miles to go, the lead was down to nine seconds. However, just as a nailbiting finish was expected, McCallen dropped his machine at the Waterworks. Many observers felt this was going to happen as Phillip was simply trying to hard but in actual fact, machine failure caused the incident as the Tandragee man hit a false neutral as he changed down the gearbox. Amateur video footage showed Phillip, unhurt apart from a few cuts and bruises, crawling on his hands and knees to the roadside as Ward, Dunlop and Duffus picked their way through the debris. With the race now all but won Duffus continued his way towards the chequered flag, taking no chances, and finished with a flourish, hammering a new lap record of 117.87mph on his final lap. His final winning margin, over runner-up Nick Jefferies was one minute, 5.8 seconds, with lap and race records comfortably broken. Colin Gable completed the rostrum.
But what about our man Jared? After the pit stop Jared maintained his 29th place position with a third lap speed of 105.38mph. The final lap is usually a riders' fastest as it is the only flying lap to be done and sure enough the Kiwi finished with his first ever 110mph lap, a feat that very few newcomers achieve. This final lap of 110.49mph hoisted Jared up to a more-than-creditable 27th position. Unfortunately, with the pace at the head of the field being so fast, Jared was denied a bronze replica by a mere 22 seconds, a heartbreaking gap. As they say, though, every cloud has a silver lining, and this disappointment was soon to change. At the end of the week Jared's name went onto the prestigious Newcomers Trophy, following in the footsteps of fellow Kiwis Shaun Harris and Jason McEwan, and other TT regulars including Denis McCullough and Gary Dynes, all previous winners. The New Zealand contingent have been welcome additions to TT line-ups for many years with many reaching great heights, notably Graeme Crosby and Dennis Ireland (who both scored wins) - Jared Gillard may not have won but he had completed the most challenging course in the world with great style and speed, a fantastic achievement. He had certainly left an impression on many.