With Friday evening’s session lost to bad weather, the pressure was on for the final practice, as many competitors struggled to complete the necessary laps to qualify for next week’s races, which begin on Monday.
The organisers, too, were keen to ensure the maximum possible time was put at their disposal, and marshals were asked to report for duty 15 minutes early to ensure a prompt start.
Fortunately conditions had improved throughout the day and Peter Symes and Adam Barclay (750 Suzukis) got proceedings under way trying to knock Craig Atkinson off pole position, but unlikely to be able to do so with damp patches all around the course.
The top 30 numbers are usually set off first and Atkinson, Derek Brien, Marie Costello, Maurice Hogg, Barry Davidson and Philip McGurk were all well to the fore. There was a minor hold-up for Dave Corlett, whose tyre pressure gauge was indicating a low level, but it was found to be the instrument itself that was at fault.
First to complete a lap was Barclay, having taken about three seconds out of starting partner Symes at 107.611 and 107.461mph respectively. Both went straight through for a second lap, but third on the road. Having started seventh Atkinson pulled in and switched to his 600cc machine. His speed on the 750cc was 106.928mph.
“Very wet” was the verdict on the areas of the course under the trees, and Brien declined the opportunity of another lap, relying on his 115.713mph from Thursday.
As 40 minutes ticked up, Barclay was back over the stripe – but there was no sign of Symes. The mystery was soon solved when Barclay said he had been overtaken by Symes but the latter then fell off at Keppel Gate. Barclay’s second lap: 109.571mph.
Hogg reported that he had had to stop at Ramsey to pull up the top zip of his leathers!
As Davidson pulled in, the general effects of the lack of laps during the week could be detected by the urgency with which other bikes were wheeled out. With only five minutes to go, last year’s Newcomers’ winner Nigel John’s 250cc Honda was rapidly refuelled by TT ace Paul Owen and re-despatched without further ado.
With just two minutes left, Davidson came to the line to start his third lap but stalled the two-stroke. His mechanics did a sterling job in grabbing the bike and bump-starting it back down the entrance ramp which luckily was not otherwise occupied.
A grateful Davidson leaped aboard and set off as the clock showed ten seconds. Leaving it even tighter was newcomer Shane Connor who got away precisely at ten-past seven!
Atkinson’s move onto the Junior bike paid off and he did 110.024mph – faster than on the 750 and confirming the tricky conditions which obviously favoured the 600.
Within a minute the Classics and Ultra Lightweights set off for their session headed by Dave Madsen-Mygdal and Meredydd Owen. Early out was the venerable Bud Jackson, not only celebrating 30 years’ marriage, but reflecting that it was 20 years since he first won the MGP. Also in pensive mood was Barrow’s Les Trotter – 30 years since he won the Senior Manx on a 500cc two-stroke Suzuki twin. He has been helping out by scrutineering and marshalling, and a surprise Celebration Paddock Barbie was laid on for him by partner D’reen, attended by a few Likely Lads from the 1976 era.
Soon that was that – practice over. How quickly it had passed. A few had still not qualified and no doubt would have to plead the Clerk of the Course for a start.