Anstey and Molyneux Top Opening TT Sessions

by James Charman

Bruce Anstey and Dave Molyneux were the pick of the bunch as the opening qualifying sessions of the 2014 Isle of Man TT got underway.

With bad weather on Saturday postponing the newcomers’ initiation, the TT action finally got going on Monday evening and saw a brace of Hondas at the top of the time sheets, with Anstey beating 20-time TT winner John McGuinness to the fastest time of the evening, posting a lap of 127.473mph.

The first on the Mountain Course, however, were the newcomers, with Richard Quayle taking the first group of three away at 18:25, leading Peter Hickman, Laurent Hoffmann and Martin Jessopp, followed by Ian Lougher with Phil Crowe, Vick de Cooremeter and Alan Bonner, while John Barton took the final trio of Danny Webb, Dan Kruger and Callum Laidlaw.

The big names of road racing began their week shortly before 7pm, with the Dunlop brothers of William and Michael the first duo to hit the roads, followed by Michael Rutter and Guy Martin, Dan Kneen and James Hillier, Ian Mackman and Josh Brookes, David Johnson and Steve Mercer and Lee Johnston and Ian Hutchinson. All except William Dunlop and Mackman took to the track on their Superbike machines, with Dunlop and Mackman opting for the Superstock challengers.

After the field completed their second lap, McGuinness and Anstey took their places at the top of the standings, with Gary Johnson rounding out the top three. Newcomers Jessopp and Hickman also showed signs of strong pace, with both riders posting opening laps in the 109mph bracket.

For much of the session it seemed that McGuinness would end the opening session of the week at the top, but a late flyer from Anstey took him to the top, with Gary Johnson, William Dunlop and Michael Dunlop rounding out the top five. Hickman also improved his best lap to a 115.103mph, the fastest ever lap from a newcomer on their opening night of practice.

The Dunlop brothers dominated the Superstock class, with Michael leading brother William ahead of David Johnson and Austrian Horst Saiger, who was a surprise front runner at the North West 200. Gary Johnson topped the time sheets in the Supersport category.

Immediately following the solo qualifying session was the first outing of the Sidecar machines, who hit the circuit at approximately 20:05.

Molyneux and Patrick Farrance comfortably set themselves at the top of the table in the Sidecar category, posting a first lap of 112.278mph, which they would later better to a 114.350mph with their second lap of the session.

The Birchall brothers took the second best lap of the evening, posting a 110mph+ lap, while Karl Bennett and Lee Cain took third with a lap of 107.452. The pairing of Tony Thirkell and Nigel Barlow were reported to have had an incident at Sulby Bridge, with Barlow being taken by airmed to Nobles Hospital with ankle injuries. Thirkell was unhurt in the incident.

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