Starting together at the front of an 80-strong field, Brian and Atkinson battled it out on time and on the road, with Brienís Kawasaki narrowly leading Atkinsonís Honda all the way round the first lap. They were separated by two-fifths of a second at the end of lap one, with Barry Davidson (Yamaha) lying third.
Brienís standing start lap was run at 116.708mph, with Atkinson at 116.670 and Davidson 115.543mph. Fourth place was held by Stephen Oates, fifth Maurice Hogg and sixth Andrew Neill Ė all on Yamahas. The first 250cc machine was that of Neil Kent in 19th place at 111.347mph.
Lap two saw the battle between Brien and Atkinson continue throughout, and it appeared that the slickest refuelling stop might decide matters. Obviously they came in together but 40 agonising seconds later it was Atkinson who departed first and therefore inherited the race lead. The average speed for the first half of the race was 117mph.
The pits unfortunately spelled the end of the race for fourth placeman Stephen Oates, who had to retire with clutch trouble. Davidson maintained third place, while Neill overtook Hogg and moved to fourth. Mark Castle was sixth.
Brien might have caved in as Atkinson sped down Bray Hill ahead of him on the road and on time, but he piled on the coals and soon re-asserted himself as the race leader.
The rest were trailing in the wake of the top two, with half-a-minute the interim split.
At Ramsey on lap three Brien was still in the lead but by the Bungalow the positions were reversed and Atkinson held that through into the lap. The transponders showed the interval to be 0.69seconds, but watches werenít required to work it out Ė it was simply whomever led on the road led the race.
Davidson trailed by 49 seconds with a lap to go; Neill was still fourth, but Castle had displaced Hogg for fifth. At Glen Helen Atkinson led by 1.28 seconds with 28 miles to go. Which would it be Ė the Honda or the Kawasaki?
At Ballaugh Brien had pulled Atkinsonís lead back to 0.93seconds; at Ramsey Hairpin
They were split by 1.49seconds. At the Bungalow it was Atkinson by 1.32seconds. A mile from the end at Cronk-ny-Mona it was 0.38 seconds and looked in the bag for the MBR Honda.
Out of Governorís Bridge they roared side-by-side but at the line Atkinson won by 0.01 seconds Ė easily the closest finish ever on the TT Course Ė even including the days of mass-start races. Phew!
The winnerís average speed was 116.625mph and the runner-upís 116.624mph! Behind all the excitement Barry Davidson came home third, Andrew Neill fourth, Mark Castle fifth and Ryan McCay sixth.
Neil Kent finished best 250cc in 21st place, with every prospect of being right in the hunt in Fridayís Lightweight race on the same bike.