Soggy Monday

After a week of fine weather Monday dawned with grey skies, although not cold it was certainly cooler than the previous days. The paddock was a hive of activity as the teams readied themselves for the first practice session; roads closing at six pm. The organisers were also busy making sure that they were also had their ducks in a row.

I decided to go to Ballabeg for the session; the traffic was really heavy in the few minutes before the roads were due to close. On the dot of six o'clock they were shut, the odd car that was between Ballakeighan and Ballabeg or between Cross Four Ways and Ballabeg trickled through for the next minute, then silence. The marshals then got busy checking the road and removing the airport road sign, at this stage the clouds were reasonably high and the road perfectly dry.

The flagman at Ballabeg is a throwback to days of yore. Ray Gawne has flagged there for many years and is resplendent in his Total white coat, shirt, tie, tweed jacket and tweed flat cap, he is without doubt the smartest flagman on the island. Flagmen in white coats have generally disappeared and there are only a couple left on the Colas Billown circuit. On the Mountain course the flagmen also used to wear white coats and they were the only track side officials that were paid. Today they wear the orange tabbard and like all marshals do not now get paid. I do think, however, it would help them stand out from the orange throng if they were dressed in white coats.

Practice commenced with the obligatory speed controlled lap for the newcomers, unfortunately for Neil Mason, 650cc Suzuki, he crashed at Ballabeg on his second circuit. Fortunately he was unhurt but it put him out for the rest of the night. Just as the speed controlled laps were coming to an end the the proceedings were stopped. After a year of planning the event was barely 30 minutes old when a communications failure resulted in a 45 minute delay. As we waited the weather started to close in and when the communications problem had been sorted there were spots of rain falling. This got heavier as the evening went on, fortunately all planned sessions went a head.

Photographs by Mike Hammonds:
Neil Mason picking himself up after his spill


Manxman Michael Evans, Wilcock Consulting 1000 BMW, posted the fastest speed of the night at 98.385 mph. In dryer conditions, Xavier Denis (600cc Honda) posted the second fastest time, 96.107mph in the newcomers solo session. Mark Parrett (C+C Ltd 1000cc BMW) was third quickest at 95.305 mph.

Fastest newcomer of the night Xavier Denis, exiting Ballabeg

In the chairs Estelle Leblond (600 SGR) set the quickest time of the night in the dryer newcomers session at 91.633 mph. She has Frank Claeys as passenger, last year she was part of an all girls crew with Melanie Farnier as ballast. John Lowther and Robert Child (600cc LCR Honda) were second fastest at 89.852 mph again in the newcomers session, the Crowe brothers (Haven Homes 600 Yamaha) could only manage a lap of 34.097mph and did not appear in the full sidecar session. The Triumph that they used at the TT is not eligible to be raced at the Southern or Scarborough. Peter Founds and Jevan Walmsley (600 Rowtec Suzuki) topped the full sidecar session with a speed of 89.132 mph in the wet.

Estelle LeBlond and Frank Claeys 600 SGR in the gloom at Ballabeg


Fastest in the wet sidecar session, Pete Founds / Jevan Walmsley on their 600 Rowtec Suzuki

Despite the delay the organisers did well to fulfill the evening's programme with all riders having the chance to get out albeit in tricky conditions. The forecast for Tuesday is similar to Monday and then, hopefully, improving as the week goes on.

Mike Hammonds