Clear blue skies and sunshine on Monday evening meant the 2014 Isle of Man TT Races, fuelled by Monster Energy, got underway at last and Bruce Anstey set the pace at 127.473mph, just edging out fellow Honda rider John McGuinness whose best lap was 126.355mph.
Action around the Mountain Course commenced at 6:25pm with the newcomers completing their controlled laps after the cancellation of Saturday’s session.
Shortly before 7:00pm it was the turn of the ‘big boys’ with William and Michael Dunlop leading the field away 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 were on their Superbike machines with the exception of William Dunlop and Mackman, who opted for their Superstock mounts.
Michael Dunlop was the first man to complete a lap at 125.265 followed by brother William (122.461), Rutter (122.789) and Kneen (123.580). McGuinness was on the pace at 123.641 as was Gary Johnson, who left the line mid-pack, at 124.513.
Second time around and McGuinness and Anstey went top of the timesheets at 126.355 and 126.299, the duo circulating in close formation, with Johnson also going quicker than his opening lap at 125.686.
With conditions remaining perfect, save for a few reported damp patches at Stella Maris and Ramsey Hairpin, the riders were taking full advantage and getting in their full quota of laps. Anstey made the most of the opportunity, increasing his pace slightly to 126.513mph on his third lap before putting in a late flyer of 127.473mph to go comfortably clear on the opening night.
McGuinness remained second on the leaderboard followed by Johnson, William Dunlop (125.400), Michael Dunlop (125.335) and Rutter (124.740). Impressive laps continued to be posted by the newcomers, none more so than Peter Hickman, whose lap of 115.103 was the quickest ever by a debutante on their opening night of practice.
The Dunlop brothers topped the Superstock times, Michael’s lap of 123.239 seeing him seven seconds clear of William at 122.461. Aussie David Johnson and Austrian Horst Saiger made it an International top four while Gary Johnson was quickest in the Supersport class after a late lap of 122.619mph, a solid start for the Smiths Triumph concern.
The solo session finished at 8:05pm and, with their newcomer laps safely completed at the beginning of the evening, the Formula Two Sidecars first official session was soon up and running with Dave Molyneux/Patrick Farrance, Ben and Tom Birchall and John Holden/Andy Winkle first away.
Molyneux was first back, and comfortably quickest, at 112.278 followed by the Birchalls (108.690), Karl Bennett/Lee Cain (107.452), Frank Lelias/Paul Knapton (107.035), Gary Bryan/Jamie Winn (105.835) and Conrad Harrison/Mike Aylott (105.366).
Molyneux and Farrance really upped the pace on their second lap with a speed of 114.350, their quickest opening night speed ever, while the Birchalls quickened their tempo also with a 110mph+ lap. Equally impressive was the lap by the father and son pairing of Ian and Carl Bell, a speed of 107.254mph placing them fourth on the leaderboard.
Tony Thirkell/Nigel Barlow were reported to have had an incident at Sulby Bridge and while Thirkell was unhurt, Barlow was taken by airmed to Nobles Hospital with reported ankle injuries.
–From the Isle of Man TT