With the beautiful weather returning to the Isle of Man once more, expectations were high going into the final evening’s practice session on Friday but it all came to nothing as an oil spill left the course unrideable. With the top to the bottom of Barregarrow and Ballaugh sections affected, only two laps of solo practice were possible and the Superbikes failed to get out at all.
After their session was red flagged the previous night, the Supersport and Lightweight machines were first to go and there was certainly a good spectacle at the head of the field with Cameron Donald catching both Guy Martin and Dan Kneen, the trio completing the second half of the lap in close formation. Donald was quickest of the three at123.862mph but he was upstaged shortly afterwards by the two Dunlops who both lapped in excess of 124mph. William was again the quickest at 124.895mph and most go into Monday’s first 600cc encounter as firm favourite.
However, Gary Johnson’s fortunes were vastly different and after starting to experience clutch slip at Sulby, he was pulled off the course at Ramsey for ‘touring’.
“The clutch started to slip about half way round the lap,” he later said. “I cruised from Sulby to Ramsey and even though I was still going at a fair pace, the marshals pulled me off the course at Parliament Square. So I took the coast road back to Douglas via Laxey – I’ve been down the seafront, had an ice cream and all sorts!”
Course conditions were described as good all round although caution would again have to be exercised on the run towards Ballacraine, particularly through Greeba, Appledene and Gorse Lea where the low, setting sun was its worst. The lack of adhesion flags were also on display at Governor’s Bridge due to damp patches in the dip.
The three Dans – Stewart, Cooper and Hegarty – were also impressive, all three lapping at more than 119mph with James Hillier setting the fastest lap of the Lightweights at 114.872mph. Ryan Farquhar was second quickest at 114.174mph but reported that oil flags at Barregarrow had slowed him down and it was team-mate Rutter who was third on the timesheets at 112.796mph. Ten riders in total broke the 110mph barrier with newcomer Jamie Hamilton setting the sixth fastest time on 111.417mph.
Fellow newcomer Jimmy Storrar was also out in the session on Superstock machine and lapped at 119.122mph just edging out Karl Harris as the fastest newcomer for the week.
The majority of riders continued for a second lap but Donald, Kneen and Martin were also slower, no doubt slowed by the oil, whilst Michael Dunlop was out at Ballacraine. However, the oil reported by Farquhar – as well as a further spillage at Ballaugh – was so severe that the session was brought to a premature end and also resulted in the cancellation of the following Superbike session, much to the dismay of many.
So, John McGuinness will head into Saturday’s Superbike race as the fastest rider of the week but with the latter half of the week blighted by various issues, we’re yet to really see who’s on form and who isn’t. All will be revealed on Saturday!