Perfect conditions greeted competitors as the 2013 Isle of Man TT Races, fuelled by Monster Energy, got underway with bright sun, light winds and dry roads all around the 37 and ¾-mile course.
The newcomers were given their speed controlled lap under the guidance of rider liaison officer Richard Quayle who left the line first closely followed by Josh Brookes, Jonathan Howarth and Gavin Hunt. John McGuinness led Derek Sheils, Horst Saiger and Branko Srdanov, Bruce Anstey escorted Steven Michels and Raphael Paschaolin with Keith Amor showing Sam Wilson, AJ Venter and Denis Bouan the way round. Last to leave the line was John Barton with Petre Pop and Juha Kallio in tow but machine problems with his Aprilia meant Cheung Wai On failed to start the lap.
All went to plan except for Milky Quayle suffering a puncture on the Mountain Mile, which led to McGuinness having approximately eight riders in his wheel tracks!
At 6.50pm it was the turn of the first official session, for Lightweight machines, and the field was led away by Michael Dunlop and Ben Wylie, followed in turn by the returning Chris Palmer and Russ Mountford, Ivan Lintin and James Hillier, and Gary Johnson and Dean Harrison. Expected front-runners Michael Rutter, Conor Cummins, Jamie Hamilton and Cameron Donald were also well to the fore taking full advantage of the perfect weather.
Dunlop was first to complete at 111.85mph swiftly followed by Hillier, Lintin, Palmer, Mountford and Harrison whilst Donald went second fastest at 111.23mph. Hillier, Lintin, Harrison and Cummins also broke the 110mph barrier whilst Johnson, having his first outing on the Chinese WK machine lapped at a more than respectable 107.33 before pulling in to make gearing and suspension changes.
The newcomers were also back out, keen to get in as many laps as possible and Saiger and Howarth were quickest at over 104mph although Brookes’ transponder wasn’t working so no official time was recorded as he pulled in. Meanwhile, Sheils, although not a newcomer having competed in the 2009 Manx Grand Prix, lapped at 112.44mph.
Second time around and Dunlop improved to 113.56, which would prove to be the quickest of the session, with Rutter up to 113.10, Cummins 112.59, Lintin 112.42 and Hillier 112.04. The newcomers were also rapidly getting to grips with the course, Srdanov impressing at 112.47 with Howarth up to 109.26 and Saiger 108.79. Equally impressive was 600cc-mounted Wilson at 108.39.
Most riders continued for three laps but only a small number improved, Lintin one of them moving second quickest at 113.42 and Harrison going slightly quicker with a lap of 112.10. Srdanov went faster still with a lap of 113.80mph, briefly becoming the quickest newcomer ever on an opening night in the process but that was only before Brookes’ official times were released and his fastest was an impressive 114.620.
At 7.50pm, it was the turn of the sidecars and, with the debutants having their controlled lap immediately after the solos, Dave Molyneux/Patrick Farrance, Tim Reeves/Dan Sayle led away from John Holden/Andy Winkle, Ben/Tom Birchall, Conrad Harrison/Mike Aylott and Gary Bryan/Jamie Winn.
First back were Molyneux/Farrance at 108.59 but hot on their heels were Holden/Winkle and they were quickest at 110.01 whilst the Birchalls completed their lap at 105.55. Quicker still though were Bryan/Winn on 108.14 and Harrison/Aylott at 107.93. Reeves/Sayle had a relatively slow lap at 101.09 as the late night sun began to sink lower in the sky whilst the Manx flies were also out in force.
Molyneux/Farrance upped their pace on their second circuit to 111.28 to top the leaderboard with Harrison/Aylott moving up on the leaderboard with a speed of 109.96.
Monday will see the first full qualifying session for Superbike, Supersport and Superstock classes with the Superbike, Superstock and Supersport session underway at 18.20 and the Sidecars at 20.00.
Full results of the evening's session can be found here