2018 North West 200: Johnston heads Superbike, Dunlop fastest in Supersport

Picture: Impact Images

Honda’s Lee Johnston topped the opening Superbike qualifying practice sessions at the Vauxhall North West 200 today, heading Michael Dunlop by 2.7s in the big class.

Dunlop, who is racing for Tyco BMW this season, put in a 4’39.398 lap but couldn’t match Johnston’s Fireblade, which scorched round in 4’36.708

“Everything felt good with the bike and so do I,” said Johnston. “We still have to make changes, lots of changes, and we have very little data from last year so there is plenty of work to do with the bike. But I feel good in myself on the Honda.”

McAdoo Kawasaki’s James Cowton is third on a 4’44.106. Last year’s winner big race Glenn Irwin was fourth and a further half a second back on the Be Wiser Ducati.

The session was red-flagged after an incident at University which led to a 45-minute delay as Johan Fredriks was taken by air ambulance to hospital in Belfast.

James Hiller put his Quattro Kawasaki in fifth, one ahead of Conor Cummins, who is flying solo in the Superbike class as Bruce Anstey is in treatment for cancer. William Dunlop, on the Temple Golf R1, was was seventh, one place ahead of Irish roads specialist Derek McGee.

Martin Jessopp stuck his Riders BMW in ninth, Dan Kneen’s Tyco BMW was tenth and David Johnson’s Gulf BMW 11th.

The returning Ian Hutchinson placed 12th on the works Honda and is 15.5s off the pace with Fredriks next along. Davey Todd and Michael Rutter completed the top 15 with Nadieh Schoots in 19th place.

In the Supersport class, Dunlop headed brother William by 0.087s with Hiller in third place an only 0.741s back in a rain-interrupted session. Lee Johnston is fourth with Jessopp in fifth on the Triumph triple. Young gun Adam McLean placed sixth with Dan Kneen, Gary Johnson, Alastair Seeley and Michael Sweeney rounding out the top ten.

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