Hutchinson Posts His Fastest Ever Lap to top solo’s board.
However, early road traffic accidents on the Mountain section meant there was a delay to proceedings and it wasn’t until 6.45pm that the action got underway. Course conditions were described as dry and clear with the drivers being warned of strong sun from Union Mills to Ballacraine whilst the distinct lack of breeze meant that flies, as with Wednesday’s session, were again going to be a major problem.
Dave Molyneux and Patrick Farrance were the first combination to set off and they were followed in quick succession by Klaus Klaffenbock/Dan Sayle, Simon Neary/Paul Knapton - who’d swapped engines after problems on Wednesday, Conrad Harrison/Kerry Williams and Tim Reeves/Dipash Chauhan. Gary Bryan, Roy Hanks and Tony Elmer were the next to go with John Holden and Andy Winkle leaving the line slightly further back than where they’d been in previous sessions.
Neary was the quickest through the Sulby speedtrap at 145mph but, as expected, Molyneux was the first to complete the lap at 114.545mph with Klaffenbock and Neary in hot pursuit at 113.377mph and 113.172mph respectively. Harrison lapped at 111.487mph with Reeves and Bryan also above 110mph but Brian Kelly/Dickie Gale were early retirements as were Gordon Shand/Stuart Graham. Elmer wasn’t far off at 109.67mph with Holden just above the 111mph mark.
Holden pulled in to change the rear tyre whilst Neary also stopped at the pits to make adjustments before rejoining but Molyneux continued and improved second time around to 115.464mph as did Klaffenbock, the Austrian going quicker than ever before at 114.096mph. Harrison was close to 112mph whilst Reeves, Hanks and Elmer were also above 110mph, the last named breaking the 110mph mark for the first time.
The chairs’ session came to an end at 7.40pm and 13 minutes later it was the turn of the solos for their unusually short session, the riders again warned to give considerable care to the bright evening, and setting, sun. Bruce Anstey and John McGuinness set off towards Bray Hill first, the duo both Superbike mounted and the first group were in numerical order with Ian Lougher, Ian Hutchinson, Keith Amor, Cameron Donald, Guy Martin, Adrian Archibald, Conor Cummins and Gary Johnson away next. Nearly all of the leading competitors were on the Superbikes with the exception of Dan Stewart and William Dunlop who opted for their Supersport machines.
Donald pulled off the circuit early and came round the back roads before going back out again but it was Hutchinson who completed a lap first at 128.303mph. However, Amor was the fastest on the opening lap at 128.691mph with both Anstey and McGuinness surprisingly off the pace at 121.166mph and 119.827mph respectively. Archibald and Martin were down in the 123mph bracket with Farquhar and Michael Dunlop also lapping above 125mph.
On the second lap, Hutchinson was really flying – and it showed. He crossed the line to record a lap of 130.165mph, his first ever 130mph+ lap, with Cummins and Donald flying at 128.838mph and 128.836mph. Rutter and Dunlop were also upping their pace, setting personal best laps of 127.564mph and 127.946mph, comfortably his best ever speed. Mark Buckley and Steve Mercer, one of the leading newcomers last year, showed they could well be the men to catch in the race for the Privateer’s Championship with laps of 124mph+.
Many of the leading contenders switched to their 600cc bikes for the second half of the session and it was Amor who went quickest, the Scotsman lapping at 124.797mph on the Kojak Racing Honda. Hutchinson wasn’t too far behind at 124.685mph with Martin third at 123.902mph.
David Johnson was again the leading newcomer with a fine lap of 118.607mph, Stephen Thompson following closely at 117.387mph. Swiss ace Herve Ganther was third fastest with 115.210mph whilst Brian McCormack bounced back from his spill the previous night to lap at 114.326 just behind James Hurrell’s speed of 114.510. In the 600cc division, Dan Cooper improved to 113.740mph and David Jones posted his first 110mph+ lap at 111.154mph.
Sidecar team Nigel Mayers and Joseph Shardlow were involved in an incident at Kates Cottage. Mayers was unhurt but Shardlow was taken by airmed to hospital.