51st Southern 100
The 51st Southern 100 will be remembered as one of the best meetings ever. This, despite Wednesday’s programme being abandoned. The reason for this was that Ian Lougher slid off on the warm up lap on the recently re-surfaced stretch of road leading from Church Bends to Great Meadow. The rain that preceded the scheduled start time must have brought a film of oily residue out of the tarmac, making it very greasy. However this surface was in situ in June when the Classic Races ran on the circuit and had to contend with wet conditions at the start of racing. Ian was unhurt and ran after his machine as it slid down the road. Although the rain did not return, this section of track remained too dangerous for racing to be considered and the organizers quite correctly called off the evening’s races.
There were no such problems for the first two races on Tuesday, these were held in ideal conditions; after the final practice sessions. First away was the Senior Solo Founders race for 1000cc and 600cc machines. From the lights there was a three way battle at the front. Ian Lougher grabbed the initiative on the Stobart Honda with Guy Martin, newcomer Cameron Donald and Martin Finnegan in line astern as they passed Alexander Bridge on lap 1. Paul Hunt failed to make the start; whilst Barry Davidson and Brett Crossley had a coming together at Cross Four Ways. On lap 2 Donald passed Martin for second place. Guy had missed Monday’s practice so had only a handful of laps in which to re-familiarize himself with the circuit and set the bike up. Conor Cummins was another to take an early bath retiring at Alexander Bridge on lap 3.
At the front Donald hounded Lougher; but on lap 6 went into Ballakeighan a little too hot; ran wide and allowed Martin back into second. These three had pulled away from Finnegan and fifth placed Nigel Beattie, who was starting to come under pressure from Tim Poole. Lougher then had a moment at Church when the rear wheel came around and almost put him into the wall. He backed off briefly and this allowed Martin to grab the lead at Iron Gate on lap 7. Ian regained his composure and the lead on the finishing straight. Then Donald squeezed past Martin for second; but almost immediately lost his chance for victory with a trip up a slip road. Martin tried to pass Lougher on lap 9 but failed. Ian wound up the wick on the final lap to take the win by 2.1 seconds from Martin. Cameron Donald was third on the Uel Duncan Racing Honda in his debut race. Martin Finnegan took a lonely fourth, Tim Poole snatched fifth from Nigel Beattie.
In the 600cc class the victory was taken by Darran Lindsay in 11th place overall, just one place ahead of Chris Palmer. Third in the class was William Dunlop in 19th overall. Darran broke Tim Poole’s lap and race records such was the pace of the battle with Palmer.
The Junior Solo Founders Race for 250cc machines saw Chris Palmer become the first man to win a race at each of the Pre-TT Classic; IOM Steam Packet Co. Races and the Southern 100 in the same year. The former British 125cc champion; now a retained fireman; led from start to finish on Alan and Mike Kelly’s new Honda. Chris took the race by the scruff of the neck early on stretching a six seconds advantage over Ian. He then relaxed a little too much; but quickened again when given an appropriate board by former racer George Short. Lougher was in a safe second place; but behind him there was good battle between Darran Lindsay and Nigel Beattie. Lindsay eventually managed to pull clear of Beattie and once he had he broke the lap record set by Lougher in 2002. The name Dunlop appeared on the Billown leader board again, William and Michael taking fifth and sixth places.
Thursday saw the island bathed in warm sunshine. Under a cloudless blue sky, the roads were perfectly dry so there were none of the problems that had beset the previous evening.
First away was the Junior Support Race; a mixture of 400cc and 125cc machines. Newcomer Gareth Costello grabbed the lead from the lights and began to pull out a substantial lead over Mick Moreton. Gail Musson; an accomplished road runner when not racing motorcycles; had a slow start and had to work her way through the traffic before she could challenge for second place. Once she had passed Moreton she set about hunting down Costello. She cut lumps out of the lead; setting the fastest lap of the race, but the flag came one lap too soon for her.
Next away was the 600c Race B. This turned out to be an excellent race with close racing right through the field. At the sharp end of events the vastly experienced Dave Madsen-Mygdal and newcomer Andy Cowin were never more than a couple of machines lengths apart. Cowin led for most of the race, but on lap 6 it was Madsen-Mygdal who had grabbed the lead at Cross Four Ways. Cowin stuck to him like glue, but Madsen-Mygdal had the lead going towards Church on the final lap and must, like us, have thought that he had the race in the bag. Cowin got the drive out of the final bend and they were side by side as they crossed the line. Initially the commentator gave the win to Madsen-Mygdal; but on the transponders it was Cowin who, with the aid of the fastest lap of the race, had won by just 0.002s; basically the width of a tyre. The battle for third was settled in favour of another newcomer Mick Goodings; after a good battle he managed to pull clear in the final two laps. One of the early challengers for this position, Mike Crellin, slid off at Cross Four Ways without injury. The race provided an exciting prologue for the A race that was to follow.
The eagerly awaited A race lived up to its billing with the result in doubt right up to the finish. On the first lap it was Ian Lougher who led marginally from Darran Lindsay as they braked fiercely; peeled sharp right and accelerated towards the S bend at Church. Behind them came Chris Palmer, Guy Martin and Paul Hunt. A little further back was a group consisting of Cameron Donald, Martin Finnegan, Mark Buckley, Tim Poole and Davy Morgan. At the front Lougher and Lindsay changed positions several times; their battle allowing the next group to close the gap; whilst they in turn were being caught by Cameron Donald. On lap four Lindsay led at our vantage point but it was Guy Martin who had taken second place from Lougher, who had Chris Palmer, Paul Hunt and Cameron Donald breathing down his neck. The racing provided great entertainment for the crowd in the Mediterranean weather. Next time around Lindsay, Martin and Lougher had opened a 50 metre gap on their pursuers. The pace set at the front allowed Martin and Lougher to have opened a gap on Lindsay on the sixth lap. Lindsay was then caught and passed by Cameron Donald, who must have been cursing his relatively slow start. Palmer blotted his copy book by out braking himself into Cross Four Ways and costing himself several seconds. On the final tour Martin led by a machine’s length as they passed us. He managed to keep Lougher at bay at Castletown Corner and took a hard fought and well deserved victory. Darran Lindsay managed to squeeze past Cameron Donald at the final corner to claim third. Paul Hunt won the battle for fifth from Martin Finnegan. Newcomer to the meeting and youngest rider at the meeting Conor Cummins took seventh ahead of Tim Poole. Conor is definitely one to watch for the future as this is his first year on road circuits.
On paper the Harlequin 250cc race looked set to be a dust between Chris Palmer, Darran Lindsay and Ian Lougher. However Darran did not complete a lap; so that left two. As on Tuesday evening it was Chris who grabbed the lead from the lights. They were in line astern as they came through Church, with Nigel Beattie a few metres further back. William and Michael Dunlop slid off early on; William avoiding another rider who cut across him. Ian remained on Chris’s wheel until his machine threw in the towel on lap 4. This left Chris with a comfortable advantage over Mannin Collections team mate Nigel Beattie. The main interest now centred on the battle for third. Yarno Holland sat on Barry Davidson’s wheel for most of the race distance. The photographers at Church reckoned that he had been sizing up the opportunity to pass at Castletown Corner on the final lap – and so it proved; he nipped through to take the final podium place.
The next race on the card was the Eurocars Classic Race; whilst run as one race, there were three classes running in the event, each with its own winner’s award. This was expected to be a battle between the Triumph and BSA triples of Dave Madsen-Mygdal and Chris McGahan and the 500cc Norton of Alan Oversby. When the red lights changed to green it was Madsen-Mygdal who grabbed the advantage. Through Church he led from Oversby with McGahan close behind in third. Paul Coward on the leading up to 350cc machine held fourth with Allan Brew snapping at his heels. Lap two saw Oversby right in Madsen-Mygdal’s wheel tracks, but McGahan had dropped back a little and Brew had passed Coward. Ron Soar was next ahead of Rich Hawkins. The leading 250cc two stroke within the up to 350cc class was that of Ewan Hamilton; he held his position to the finish. Lap three saw the demise of Madsen-Mygdal’s challenge when he was obliged to park the big triple; perhaps its record lap at 89.887mph was too much for it. The old record had stood in the name of Kenny Harrison since 1992; this just shows how good Kenny was. Two other fancied runners to take an early bath were past class winner Ron Soar and Mark Daynes. The man on the move was Tony Cawte on his Turner Honda, he had caught and passed Hawkins on the larger capacity Seeley. Oversby now had the lead and was able to increase his advantage as the race progressed. The demise of Coward on lap 5 left Cawte in the lead of the 350cc class and allowed John Knowles to move onto the overall leader board on his Rickman Metisse. Coward’s only consolation was a record lap at 89.944mph. Oversby had the race well under control and he won comfortably from McGahan; with Ramsey’s Allan Brew taking another podium placing on his Seeley. Tony Cawte won the up to 350cc class; with Ewan Hamilton taking his 247cc Suzuki to seventh position overall. McGahan had the satisfaction of setting a race record for the 501cc to 850cc class.
Next up was the 125cc / 400cc race. Here the 125s started one minute ahead of the 400s. From the gun Robert Dunlop grabbed the advantage. At Church he was just a machine’s length ahead of Chris Palmer, with Ian Lougher and Darran Lindsay in close attendance. Closely following them were Nigel Beattie, Michael Dunlop and Tony Cawte. Leading the charge in the 400cc class was Alan Oversby; he had Paul Dobbs and Mark Parrett in close attendance. Behind them came Dave Madsen-Mygdal and Dave Moffitt. The pace was hot in both races with plenty of close action to keep the large crowd enthralled. On lap two it was Chris Palmer on the first of the three Mannin Collections’ Hondas who had the lead. Behind him a cigarette paper would have covered Robert Dunlop; Lougher and Lindsay. Cawte had taken fifth from Michael Dunlop and was beginning to open a gap on him. Nigel Beattie toured through on one of the Mannin Hondas; his race over. He would be joined as a spectator by Lougher very soon afterwards. In the 400cc class Dobbs had a lead of 50 metres over Parrett; with Oversby a close third as they charged between the walls of Malew churchyard. Lap four saw Lindsay with some daylight between him and Robert Dunlop, who had Chris Palmer right on his rear wheel. We also had a change in the 400cc class where Parrett had passed Dobbs to lead for the first time, but only by the slightest of margins, this race far from decided. Lap five saw no changes, but Lindsay’s lead was noticeably smaller than it had been on the previous tour; Robert was on the charge and put up the fastest lap of the race on this lap. Could Robert snatch victory with a last lap charge? In the 400s the battle at the front raged, but this time it was Dobbs back in front by a tiny margin. The final lap was certainly going to be interesting. As the machines hammered from Cross Four Ways all eyes were strained to see who was leading; it was the white and blue fairing of Robert, with Darran as close as he could be to Robert’s back wheel. It was a case who could get the drive out of the last bend. Commentator Maurice Mawdesley called it a dead heat; in days past it would have been; but the transponders gave it to Robert by the minimum possible margin just 0.001s about 4.5 inches if my mathematics are correct. Behind them some gaps had opened; Chris Palmer took third; Tony Cawte fourth; Michael Dunlop fifth and Chris McGahan sixth. In the 400cc class Dobbs had upped his pace and opened a winning advantage over Parrett. This repeated his win in this class in the post-TT Steam Packet Races. Madsen-Mygdal took his second podium finish of the day in third. Filling the class leader board were Alan Oversby; Dave Moffitt and Mick Goodings; the latter two being newcomers.
The next race was the Senior Support Race; for those who did not qualify for the Championship race itself. Chris McGahan was the class act in the field and he quickly established a comfortable advantage on the big McKinstry Yamaha. Newcomer Richard Eglin held second as the field streamed past us. Third place was held by another newcomer in the shape of Stephen McIlvenna, fourth by the experienced John Crellin. McGahan stretched away as the race progressed, but it was Crellin who was on the charge as he set about the task of trying to take second. On lap 5 Crellin had achieved his aim; behind him McIlvenna had also passed Eglin to remain in third place. Behind them Andy Cowin was having another good ride in fifth, with Mike Crellin holding sixth and avoiding any repeat of his morning slip up. The final lap was uneventful; so the order above proved to be the finishing order.
The penultimate race of the day was the Solo Championship; this promised to be an absolute belter with the winner probably going to be one of the first three from Tuesday’s opener. At the start the nerves were taught; in fact too taught, as the engage gear board was turned someone jumped the lights and everyone bar Tim Poole reacted and charged off towards Ballakeighan. Poole eventually also set off; but as there had been a very clear false start the race was immediately red flagged. This meant that the race distance would have to be cut to nine laps. When the race did start it was Ian Lougher who grabbed the early advantage. At Church, as they skimmed the walls he was 20 metres ahead of Guy Martin with Cameron Donald a similar distance behind Martin in third place. Those of us expecting Lougher to clear off, as he had last year, were to be surprised; this race would go right to the wire. Martin Finnegan was fourth, Nigel Beattie fifth and Tim Poole sixth, with Conor Cummins right on his wheel. Lap two saw Lougher still leading from Martin, who had Donald sticking to his rear wheel and learning from him. Finnegan and Beattie held their positions, but the impressive Cummins had nipped inside Poole to grab sixth. The final three leader board positions did not change for the remainder of the race. Tim Poole’s challenge ended when he went into Cross Four Ways a tad too quickly and unable to go up the slip road, he kissed the straw bales and slid off; thankfully without injury. Lap three saw Martin holding a 25 metres lead from Lougher, with Donald holding station just behind and learning from the current Master of Billown. The order changed again on lap six; Donald had passed Lougher and was setting about challenging Martin for the lead. He has shown an extraordinary ability to learn circuits quickly this year and clearly Billown had been learned as his lines were now inch perfect. On lap seven the lead was just a couple of machine’s lengths as they brushed the churchyard wall and hammered off towards Great Meadow and Stadium. On lap eight it was Cameron who was first into view, with Guy twenty metres back and Ian a similar distance behind him and by no means out of the reckoning. The final lap and it was Cameron; slider on the floor and sparks flying who led by just five metres from Guy, who had Ian just as close behind him – this was going to be decided at the final corner. Cameron got the better of overtaking some traffic and held on to win the Southern 100 Championship on his debut; the first rider to do so since the legendary Joey Dunlop did it in 1976. Cameron has been called a star of the future; that is incorrect; he is most definitely a star of today.
The final race was the Sidecar Championship. On paper this was going to be another title for TT double winners Nick Crowe and Darren Hope. The stiffest challenges seemed likely to come from Roy Hanks/Dave Wells and Kenny Howles/Doug Jewell. There was drama on the warm up lap; Darren caught his helmet on the side of the ‘tray’ and knocked his visor off. With no time to obtain another he had to ride the race without a visor; they make eyeballs tough in the Isle of Man. This harks back to the winner of the first Sidecar TT; Freddie Dixon who hated wearing goggles and is reputed to have taken the lenses out when obliged to wear them! Nick and Darren took the lead as expected but did not build the lead as rapidly as last year; probably feeling their way as Darren adjusted position to allow for his lack of a visor. Roy Hanks/ Dave Wells held onto their expected second place with Greg Lambert/Rick Long in third ahead of Kenny Howles/Doug Jewell as the field charged past us. However it was the only lap that those pairs were to complete as they and another fancied pairing; that of Glyn Jones/Jamie Winn all retired after just one lap. This promoted Brian Kelly/Dicky Gale to third. Holding fourth past our vantage point on lap two was the outfit of Mark Brown/Stuart Castles; fifth were Ben and Luke Beckworth and completing the leader board Neil Kelly/Jason O’Connor. At the head of events Crowe and Hope upped their pace and started to build a commanding lead. Similarly Hanks and Wells built their advantage over Kelly and Gale. By lap four the Beckworths and Kelly/O’Connor had overhauled Brown/Castles and were having a private duel of their own. Sadly, this did not last much longer; with the Beckworths having to park the outfit. This moved Alan Warner/Neal Wheatley into fifth and Douglas Wright/Dipash Chauman into sixth. Warner crashed in this event last year, fortunately without serious injury. There were no mistakes this year; he and Wheatley held their position to the finish. There was no more drama; thus Nick Crowe and Darren Hope retained their title; with Hanks/Wells second again.
This meeting provided some fantastic racing for the spectators. The future seems to be very bright with many promising newcomers to the circuit this year, apart from the amazing Cameron Donald. Conor Cummins, Mark Buckley, the Dunlops, Alan Jackson and James McBride spring readily to mind in the solos. The sidecars attracted several newcomers of whom Douglas Wright and Dipash Chauman impressed me the most.
The organization was again flawless; everything taken in stride and everyone made to feel welcome. 2007 should give us another spectacular meeting. As for a man of the meeting; Cameron Donald gets my nod; winning the championship in his first year marks him out as a very special rider and he is a thoroughly nice guy as well. Pass the Fosters!