The first qualifying session for the centenary running of the Manx Grand Prix got underway on Sunday with sunny skies and good conditions around the Mountain Course with Michael Dunlop setting the pace in the RST Classic Superbike class with a lap of 123.984mph on the Team Classic Suzuki.
John McGuinness (Carole Nash Classic Senior), Ian Lougher (Sure Lightweight), Jamie Williams (Mylchreest Group Senior) and Andrea Majola (MGP Supporters Club Junior) topped the leaderboard in the other classes.
Conditions were good around the course save for a strong wind over the Mountain and some damp patches at Ramsey, the Nook and Governor’s Bridge and after the 20+ newcomers completed their speed controlled lap, the Classic Superbike and Senior session got underway with Dunlop leading the field away followed by Brian McCormack (Greenall Racing Kawasaki) and David Johnson (Alasdair Cowan Racing Kawasaki).
Nathan Harrison (Ashcourt Racing/HRC Honda), 2022 winner Rob Hodson on a second Greenall Racing Kawasaki and James Hillier were next to go, the latter taking over the KTS Racing powered by Steadplan Kawasaki from the injured Jamie Coward. Chris Cook, Sam Johnson, James Reveley and Damien Horan were the first Senior starters to get their 2023 Manx Grand Prix campaigns underway.
Dunlop set a strong pace at the head of the field, and he was the quickest to Ramsey, almost eight seconds quicker than Dean Harrison (Key Racing Ducati) with Neve, Hodson and Derek Sheils (Greenall Racing Kawasaki) next round the hairpin whilst Tom Robinson (Pete Stacey Kawasaki) was leading the way in the Senior class from Williams (NCE Racing Honda).
The session was then temporarily stopped due to an incident at Ballagarey but much of the field were able to complete their lap with Dunlop fastest at 121.877mph followed by Dean Harrison (119.464mph), Neve (119.329mph), Hodson (118.097mph). Sheils (117.238mph) and McCormack (116.481mph).
Robinson’s good start continued as he topped the Senior times on the opening lap at 114.713mph followed by Williams (114.287mph) and Dan Ingham (112.577mph) on the Russell Brook/Brook Built Yamaha.
The session was restarted at 15.20 with Dunlop again first down Glencrutchery Road, the 25-time TT winner quickly setting the pace from Dean Harrison. Indeed, Dunlop was the first to complete the lap at an increased speed of 123.984mph.
Harrison was next across the line at 121.445mph, despite only using five gears, closely followed by Johnson (121.217mph), Hodson (121.137mph), Sheils (120.320mph) and Nathan Harrison (119.089mph) whilst it was Williams now quickest in the Senior at 117.195mph. That put him ahead of Victor Lopez (116.940mph), Cook (116.354mph), Ingham (115.990mph), Robinson (115.957mph) and Samuel Mousley (115.202mph).
Both Hodson and Sheils stopped on the following lap at Barregarrow and Ballacraine respectively, but Johnson went second quickest on the leaderboard at 122.002mph with team-mate Neve (121.192mph), Julian Trummer (118.710mph) and Michael Rutter (118.571mph) all improving.
Williams remained at the top of the Senior timings courtesy of his earlier lap but Cook (117.051mph), Ingham (116.526mph), Reveley (115.755mph) and Mousley (115.607mph) all went quicker with a superb lap coming from newcomer Joe Yeardsley (114.984mph) putting him eighth quickest. David Rigby (112.902mph) and Marcus Simpson (111.222mph) were other first timers going well.
At 16.10, the second session got underway for the Junior, Classic Senior and Lightweight classes with Mike Browne, John McGuinness, Adam McLean, Alan Oversby, Jack Fowler and Marc Colvin amongst the early starters.
Dominic Herbertson (Davies Motorsport Yamaha) was first back to the Grandstand, lapping at 107.580mph in the Senior Classic class, and that put him ahead of Dean Harrison (Craven Manx Norton) and Browne (Grantham Lodge Norton) at 104.071mph and 103.221mph respectively, Harrison taking over Jamie Coward’s ride.
In the Junior class it was Majola (111.380mph) who was quickest followed by Ingham (110.786mph), Colvin (109.420mph) and Maurizio Bottalico (109.202mph) with Yeardsley (107.982mph), Rigby (107.356mph) and Simpson (106.160mph) again impressing. Shaun Anderson (110.414mph) topped the Lightweight speeds on his Kramer from Chris Moore (107.588mph) and Stuart Hall (107.558mph).
Herbertson stopped at Crosby on his second lap but Harrison (106.286mph) and Browne (103.221mph) both improved although it was McGuinness who went quickest with a lap of 108.472mph on the Winfield Paton. Alan Oversby (102.458mph) and Michael Evans (102.069mph) completed the top six.
The speeds also increased elsewhere with Majola (113.277mph), Colvin (112.21mph), Ingham (111.459mph), Bottalico (111.201mph), Rigby (110.702mph) and Yeardsley (110.330mph) now the top six in the Junior class with Lougher (112.635mph), Anderson (112.198mph) and Paul Jordan (109.915mph) the running order in the Lightweights.