With a very strong grid of 30 riders, qualifying required each pilot to learn the not often used 300 twisting infield section and link to the usual 200 very quick outer ribbon of asphalt. A tent billowing headwind up the start/finish straight encouraged a right tight tuck in position with added streamlining gained by tight (aka Richard Ellis) leathers and pre-event reduced visits to Greggs. The dry track allowed riders to push on, the 10 minute session very quickly over with Mike Russell stamping his authority on the proceedings with an impressive 2:17 for P1, ahead of current champ George Thomas P2. Up next saw the welcome return of Peter Bardell on Ian Garbutt’s G50, P3 in-filling for the vacant Mike Hose who was crock. A semi-crock Dan Jackson rode really well to secure P4, a smidge in front of the first of the Clubman 500 class riders, a lad absolutely on top of his game at the moment, Matt Hebb in P5. Second Clubman was tyre guru Jamie O’Brien P10, with up-and-coming Clubman Brett Randall pressing hard in P11. Moving on to those 350 characters who were at it again, this time Johnny Cragg just inched ahead of arch rival Jack Hebb by the narrowest of margins in P27 & 28 respectively. Stevan Radakovic hammered his Pre-55 to P15 with a very respectable 2:29 lap, two places ahead of Paul Stephen P17 with Richard Hann on an early Savage Manx P24.
Race 1 – through the visor of Tony Perkin in honour of the wonderful Sam Clews
I feel slightly race rusty after such a long break from the first round, pre-race nerves proper kicked in requiring a bladder release to ease tension which turned out slightly tricky in my new Carlos Fandango leathers. Warm up lap completed we take our grid positions, green flag, red light, revs up, visor down, 1st gear engaged, repeat engaged, red light out – Gooooo!!! I feel the bike pull hard, stamping up the gears, peripheral vision sends instinctive steering responses whilst I concentrate on the fast approaching first bend, I’m happy with my line so hold the tap open, exiting with only Sam ahead, I harried him on the brakes at the hairpin which forces him to delay accelerating out. I have the lead, a first in Lansdowne, keep your head Perky, just ride your line and be smooth, concentrate. The wolves amassed behind, I knew they were coming, I just can’t suss the infield corners, a lap doing my own thing before Pete Bardell put in a great move, only to be followed by a few more before I steadied the ship, latching on to Sam, we traded places, fast and safe, time and again both holding good lines and both making plans for the fast approaching last lap, identifying each others weaknesses, I get great drive onto the back straight, slipstreaming a foot from Sam’s ass, I pull out and hit the brakes into the little chicane, hammering through the bomb-hole, up the gears and lay the bike into the long right, hugging the inside line then brake and downshift as late as I dare, that’s got him I thought, I nailed the throttle, hit the gears and morphed myself into the bike, tucked in I could do nothing but aim for the flag. I heard Sam’s engine before I could see him, his helmet slightly tilted my way revealed his eyes, which gave away his laughter as his front wheel moved inch by inch ahead of mine, the chequered flag waved and the 3rd place trophy was his. We sat up, Sam gave me a thumb’s up then a gloved hand reached over and we shook, a great battle, sensory overload and endorphines dancing. This is why we race. Afterwards, we met up and he told me how his plan went exactly as he imagined, he knew I would pass where I did and he knew that if he stuck on my tail he could draft past me to the flag, I told him he’s got no respect for his elders and he threw me that beaming smile of his.
Saturday; Race 1
A great start had a rabbit in the headlights Tony Perkin take the lead from Sam Clews at the hairpin, which was great while it lasted but the ’silent Assassin’ Peter Bardell sussed me out and took charge on the infield, displaying that smooth fast riding style to good effect and was never headed in the Championship class whilst George Thomas despatched both me and Matt Hebb in one move to take second. ACR’s Sam Clews, myself and Dan Jackson relished a real close ding-dong race, with Sam slipping by me at the flag taking a well earned P3 and last podium place. Matt Hebb was once again in a different league in the Clubman Class taking max points from a rejuvenated Richard Ellis who had a classy ride to keep Robin Stokes at bay and snatch the runner up trophy from Robin. The 350 duo of Jack Hebb and John Cragg once again put on a good show with John having none of it and with his head down left Jack in no doubt he was in the winning mood . The Pre55 had Stefan Radakovic pushing on winning his class and finishing P14 overall. Richard Hann got familiar with the loaned Andy Savage early Manx taking second and Derek Bunning the third place trophy.
Peter Bardell was now up to speed and from the off left no one in any doubt the class of this rider as he cleared off after being hassled by Sam Clews early on, taking the flag and win. Sam held a comfortable second for most of the race with George in close attention for a lap before a mechanical saw George out whilst a surging Mike Russell put in a hell of a ride to blast through from a P30 start position to eventually take Sam on the last lap for that runner up trophy with Sam the third. Matt Hebb once again scooped the Clubman top spot with Matt running up with the Champ boys and revelling in his battle with Sam and Dan Jackson, all three finishing in that order just point one of a second between them at the flag. Robin Stokes took second Clubman after a race long battle with Champ riders Ian Bain and Mark Taylor with Richard Ellis again taking a well earned third Clubman trophy. A dogged ride from Mike Farrall saw him open up a gap on the constantly improving Richard Dawson who held off a rejuvenated Stuart Tonge, having his best ride for a while whilst giving Paul Stephen a lesson on riding a late Manx as Paul got to grips with Gordon Russell’s loaned machine. Of note Brett Randall has put in some real good rides although a jumped start didn’t help his cause, also Simon Hocking is working hard and both are continuing to learn their respective Manx’s. John Cragg continued his winning ways in the 350 scooping another fine performance ahead of Jack Hebb. Ken Perch and Martin Thrower had a good tussle with Martin so close at the flag, but our Ken’s a cunning old fox and held the position as Roger ‘Crasher’ Ashby looked on.
Sunday; Race 3
What should have been another great day’s racing turned quickly into one of our darkest. A start line incident involving five of our Lansdowne family resulted in the devastating loss of one of our top riders Sam Clews. We are all at a loss to find the right words in this very painful time, each sending our love and sincere condolences to Andy and his family.