Isle of Man TT stars dominated the opening night of practice at the International Southern 100 Road Races.
Held around the 4.25-mile Billown circuit in the south of the Island, the ‘friendly races’ always attract a strong field of road racers, and this year is no exception.
The 1000cc machines were first out, and it was fan’s favourite Guy Martin who topped the times, his Tyco Suzuki lapping in 2 minutes 21.52, an average speed of 108.112mph.
Martin only narrowly beat Michael Dunlop, on his Honda, who lapped at 108.066mph.
KMR Kawasaki-mounted Ryan Farquhar slotted into 3rd, with Martin’s Tyco teammate Conor Cummins 4th, Russ Mountford 5th, Ian Lougher 6th and Davy Morgan in 7th.
Dean Harrison and Jamie Hamilton fought a battle for best newcomer, Harrison finishing 11th, one place ahead of Hamilton.
Dunlop increased his pace for the second big bike session, topping the timing sheets with a 2:19.633 lap, an average of 109.573mph. Farquhar and Lougher also increased their speeds to move into 2nd and 3rd, while Tyco Suzuki pair Martin and Cummins had to settle for 4th and 11th respectively.
The top 10 in the second session was rounded out by Michael Pearson, newcomer Hamilton, Mountford, Harrison, Paul shoesmith and Mark Parrett.
Martin also led the way in the first session for 600cc machines, bettering teammate Cummins by less than 0.4 of a second.
Yamaha-mounted Dunlop was third, just 0.5 of a second back on Martin, with Lougher, Pearson and Mountford the only other riders to lap at more than 102mph.
Lougher took his ILR Kawasaki to the only 105mph lap of the evening in the second session to top the times with a 105.403mph circuit.
Martin was 2nd, with a marginally slower time than he managed first time out, and Dunlop retaining 3rd. Manxman Cummins dropped to 4th, although his time was only 0.2 of a second slower than he recorded in the opening 600cc session.
In the first combined 250/650cc session it was, unsurprisingly, Farquhar who led the way on his KMR Kawasaki SuperTwin, lapping in 2:34.308, at an average of 99.152mph. Teammate Hamilton slotted into 2nd, with Lougher and Ivan Linton 3rd and 4th – all riding Kawasakis.
Top 250cc runner was TT winner Chris Palmer, whose Mannin Honda lapped at 95.66mph.
Farquhar stayed top in the second session, increasing his average speed to 99.59mph, with Hamilton also breaking the 99mph barrier to stay 2nd. Palmer moved up to 3rd with a stunning 98.731mph lap on his 250 Honda, while Lintin, Mountford, Dunlop, Roy Richardson (250cc), Jamie Coward, Lee Vernon (250cc) and Shoesmith completed the top 10.
The single session for sidecars saw TT podium finishers Tim Reeves and Dan Sayle top the times with a best lap of 2:41.725, an average speed of 94.605mph. They were followed by the outfits of Greg Lambert/Dicky Gale, Wayne Lockey/Kenny cole, Conrad Harrison/Dipash Chauhun and Ian Bell/Carl Bell.
Birchall brothers Ben and Tom, newcomers to Billown, completed the session in 8th, with a best speed of 87.202mph.
“I'd done a couple of laps in a car earlier in the year, but that's all so to end the session quickest was a nice surprise.”
“We did the newcomers laps and then got a few in on our own and it's been 'so far, so good'.”
“It's a good little circuit, but we've got some more practice tonight before the first race and there are some good drivers here with more experience than me so we'll just see how we get on.”
Action at the Southern 100 is schedule to continue this evening with the Senior Solo Founders race over 8 laps starting at 8pm, followed by the six-lap sidecar race.