Isle of Man Mountain TT

Manx man mountain
John Wilkinson reports for Snowdon Sports Editorial • Pictures by Rob Lampard

Chris Newton, the rider who set the Team Brite campaign wagon rolling in this season's BCF Premier Calendar road races, underlined his talent against the clock with the second fastest time ever in the Isle of Man mountain TT

FIRST time visitor Chris Newton stormed into the record books with the fastest ever debut lap of the Isle of Man's 37.75-mile TT circuit, to win Sunday's International Mountain Time Trial in sparkling fashion.

The Great Britain rider set new figures for the 23.6 miles from Douglas to Ramsey and, despite a strong headwind on the steepest part of the climb, was still four seconds up on Chris Boardman's 1993 record schedule at the Mountain Box.

But Newton's hopes of a £500 bonus in the opening event of Manx Week were blown away on the exposed stretch around the Verrandah and the Bungalow, leading to the descent back to Douglas where he went through the Grandstand in 1-27-02, second only to Boardman's fabulous 1-23-54 in the 51-year-history of the event.

Underlining the quality of Newton's ride, his GB team-mate Stuart Dangerfield - the winner 12 months earlier in 1-27-57 - was the only other rider to beat 90 minutes, but was pushed back into second place for the second time in three years.

David McCann (Northern Ireland), a memorable winner of the Manx International in 1996 when he slipped away from a group including Australian pros Robbie McEwen and Stephen Hodge in the closing miles, was initially awarded third place in 1-30-20. He was, however, subsequently disqualified for dangerous riding, leaving former BBAR Gethin Butler (Norwood Paragon) - another first timer - to step on to the podium with his 1-32-15.

Stewart Duff (Johnstone Wheelers), 1-33-32, repeated his fourth place of last year, although over three minutes slower due largely to problems with his tri-bars.

Dominic Sweeney (Rockingham Forest Wheelers) improved 23 seconds and five places from 1997 for fifth in 1-34-01, beating the best of the overseas riders, Holland's Marc Ter Schure, by 13 seconds, with current BBAR Kevin Dawson (Great Britain) seventh in 1-34-33.

McCann, fifth to start from an entry of 135, set the standard all the way round as he went through Ballacraine (7.5 miles) in 17-25, Ramsey in 50-56, and climbed to the Mountain Box in 1-12-41.

But he had already ruled himself out by taking the "racing line" at Quarter Bridge - alright on closed roads for the Manx International, but not in time trials into the face of traffic - instead of submitting to roundabout regulations.

He was one of six riders who were eliminated. Frenchman Gael Moreau was disqualified for taking pace behind Liam Maybank (Twickenham CC), who was then one of four ejected for missing out the dip at Governor's Bridge almost within sight of the finish - the place where Dangerfield slipped up two years ago when he was forced to brake and retrace.

Off 20 minutes before Dangerfield, Newton went through Ballacraine 25 seconds up in 16-23 with Butler (17-04) and Duff (17-23) inside McCann's marker, which was matched by Richard Wooles (Cwmcarn Paragon).

Next came Ceri Pritchard (PDM Sports), replacing former winner Matt Postle in the Welsh CU line-up, on 17-33 - seven seconds clear of Sweeney, with Dawson a further second back.

Frenchman Christophe Morel, eighth in 1997 and last year's Manx International winner, went through in 18-56 and then punctured.

Aided by a tailwind, Newton - who had gone round the first half of the course the day before by car and ridden the second half - reached Ramsey in 48-48, six seconds faster than Graeme Obree's 1995 record and 1-20 better than Boardman, who had near calm conditions.

Dangerfield (49-44) was himself nearly two minutes quicker than 12 months earlier, while McCann was up to third ahead of Butler (50-57), Pritchard (51-46), Duff (51-55), Dawson (52-15), Wooles (52-29), Sweeney (52-46) and new Manx resident Rob Holden (52 -50).

But despite the sunshine and blue skies the mountain climb was no place for the faint-hearted, with the wind head-on from the Gooseneck to Guthrie's Memorial.

Newton (19-39) was the only one to cover the five miles to the Mountain Box inside 20 minutes and went through in 1-08-27, with victory assured - barring accidents - as Dangerfield (1-10-28) was now over two minutes back.

Butler (1-12-34) had wrested third place back from McCann with Duff (1-14-00) 'and Sweeney (1-14-25), moving up as Pritchard and Wooles suffered.

The run to the finish took Newton over three minutes longer than Boardman's spectacular 15-23 and, as well as the winner's prize and two "fastest section" awards, he also secured the David Mulcahy Trophy as the fastest newcomer.

Maria Lawrence (Team Ambrosia), who won the national road race title on the same course last year, led the women's field in 1-44-17, 2-53 up on national `25' champion Maxine Johnson (GB).

Under-23 hopeful Adam Hardy (Leo RC) only managed five miles before his gear lever came away in his hand, while club-mate Andrew Horner was a non-starter - he had also entered the national "50".

Newton went above Darryl Webster (1-27-37) as second fastest on the course. But Webster's times to Ballacraine (15-50, in 1986) and for the climb from Ramsey (17-55, in 1983) remain on the book.

1. Chris Newton (GB) ................ 1 27 02
2. S. Dangerfield (GB) ............... 1 29 22
3. G. Butler (Norwood Paragon CC) ..... 1 32 15
4. S. Duff (Johnstone Wh) .... . ....... 1 33 32
5. D. Sweeney (Rockingham Forest Wh). . 1 34 01
6. M. Ter Schure (Holland) ............ 1 34 14
7. K. Dawson (GB) .................. 1 34 33
8. R. Wooles (Cwmcarn Paragon) ....... 1 35 19
9. K. Murray (Army TTT) . . . .......... 1 35 20
10. A. Schmidt (Germany) ............. 1 35 40
11. R. Holden (Manx RC) .............. 1 35 57
12. G. Stirzaker (VC St Raphael) ......... 1 36 31
13. B. Buss (RAF CC) ................. 1 36 42
14. J. Stollery (Tearn Sabre) ............ 1 37 22
15. D. Derepas (France) ............... 1 37 39
16. C. Pritchard (PDM Sports) .......... 1 38 23
17. S. Brennan (Manx Viking Wh)........ 1 39 50
18. C. Thompson (Coalville Wh) ......... 1 40 29
19. A. Labbe (France) ................. 1 41 09
20. B. Sandford (CC Breckland) ......... 1 41 23

Team.- Great Britain (Chris Newton, Stuart Dangerfield, Kevin Dawson) 4-30-57
Veterans.- Eddie Murphy (Manx RC) 1-45-20
Women.- Maria Lawrence (Team Ambrosia) 1-44-17

What they said

FORCED to pull out of the Tour of Sweden with a cold and chest infection, Chris Newton was in two minds about coming to the island for this second of three Commonwealth Games selection events. "I only finished a heavy course of antibiotics yesterday and thought about not coming, but as I'd got the ticket I decided it would be a waste not to.

"Brian Tew [the GB team manager] took me out on the course by car yesterday and dropped me off at Kirk Michael so I could ride over the climb, and I asked Paul Curran about the circuit. He said an hour and a half might seem like a long time, but it goes like a `25' because there are always different things to think about.

"I like it. It was a well-controlled ride, and it was easier than when I rode up the climb yesterday .- I popped it into the big ring coming out of Guthrie's, and stomped over the top. It was harder coming down - for some reason the wind caught you. I like places like this and the Girvan, it's discreet, and you can go to your hotel and relax when you need to. I'm going off for a lap of the island this afternoon, and I want to get some good training in over the week."

"You were flying," conceded Stuart Dangerfield as he congratulated Newton. "I wasn't going very well today," he admitted. "I've been tired all week, I don' t know why. I'm not going anywhere near as well as last year. It's always the same this time of year, my form is up and down like a yo-yo.

"I didn't ride for a couple of days after the national '25' with a muscle injury , and I missed the Tom Simpson. It was a lot quicker to Ramsey today, but very hard up the climb and over the top. I'll just forget about today."

"Horrible," was Gethin Butler's verdict immediately after finishing his debut ride. "It was hard. I'm just happy not to have got caught for five minutes by Stuart - I thought it might happen. I've not got the top end of my fitness back yet. It's coming slowly, but not quickly enough for this."