Be Wiser Ducati’s Glenn Irwin claimed pole position for Saturday’s two Superbike races at the North West 200 with a lap of 122.454mph giving him a tiny 0.066s advantage over Dean Harrison (Silicone Engineering Kawasaki) whilst a late lap of 122.410mph saw Michael Dunlop take third and the final place on the front row on his Tyco BMW.
It was Michael Rutter who was first to complete a lap, with a speed of 120.900mph and that placed him just ahead of Irwin who was only a few yards behind on the road. However, they were in first and second for only a short period of time as Seeley’s lap of 121.652mph sent him 1.6s clear. Martin Jessopp was the only other rider on the opening lap to go above 120mph. Ian Hutchinson’s opening lap was a leisurely 112.553mph.
However, despite the session being extended to 70 minutes, Lee Johnston’s Honda expired at Magherabuoy and the red flag came out shortly afterwards with oil having been deposited on track, Peter Hickman one of the riders to pull in to pit lane and immediately alert the organisers.
After a lengthy delay, the session resumed at 2.25pm and Seeley immediately upped the pace to 122.077mph and it was Jessopp now in second with 121.558mph. Rutter and Hickman both went quicker too as the top six were now all above 120mph. Hutchinson, meanwhile, had improved to 118.801mph.
It was Irwin who jumped into the top stop next time around though with a lap of 122.203mph which put him 0.272s ahead of Seeley and Michael Dunlop was also on the move, his lap of 121.425mph placing him fourth behind Jessopp.
It all changed in the closing stages though and although Irwin lapped quicker at 122.454mph, Harrison jumped up into second with Dunlop leaving it until even later to take third, just 0.094s covering the top three That pushed team-mate Seeley into fourth and the second row where he’ll be joined by fellow BMW riders Rutter, who also broke the 122mph mark near the end, and Jessopp.
Hickman had to settle for seventh ahead of William Dunlop, Conor Cummins and Johnston who managed to get back out on track. James Hillier in 11th was the last rider in the 120mph bracket and that put him in front of David Johnson and Hutchinson, the Honda Racing rider putting in a very respectable lap of 119.071mph.
Gary Johnson was forced to stop at Ballysally Roundabout early on and had to complete the session on his Superstock Kawasaki.