The top three riders in today’s Superbike qualifying session at the International North West 200 all lapped within the outright lap record but it was Glenn Irwin who will line up in pole position after a lap of 4’21.767s, 123.362mph.
The Quattro Plant Wicked Coatings Kawasaki rider is clearly getting to the grips with the ZX-10RR and midway through the session, the triple race winner fired himself to the top of the leaderboard disposing long time leader Dean Harrison with a lap 0.328s quicker than Michael Dunlop’s lap record set in 2016.
Harrison ended the session juts 0.206s adrift of his fellow Kawasaki rider to put himself firmly in contention for his first NW200 win whilst a late lap from Alastair Seeley on the PBM Be Wiser Ducati saw him close to within 0.071s of Harrison. The trio were separated by only 0.277s.
The qualifying times appear to put these three clear of the chasing pack with fourth placed Dunlop almost three seconds adrift in fourth on the Tyco BMW but the pack is bunched tightly behind him with Conor Cummins’ early lap of 4m25.116s seeing him take fifth overall on the Milenco by Padgetts Motorcycles Honda.
Lee Johnston completed the second row on his Ashcourt Racing BMW with Michael Rutter leading the third row on the Bathams Racing RC213V-S after reverting back to the settings used at last year’s Macau Grand Prix.
Newcomer Richard Cooper followed the experienced Rutter around the 8.9-mile circuit late in the session with his final lap of 4m27.051s just over five seconds slower than Irwin’s and helping him jump up from 13th to an excellent eighth quickest.
James Hillier and Peter Hickman completed the top ten with the latter’s time from Tuesday his quickest of the two sessions. He spent much of today’s session in the pits but he fared better than John McGuinness who again ran into problems and retired the Norton on the coast road after completing just two laps.
David Johnson missed the session after coming to grief at Magherabouy towards the end of the previous 600cc session, the Aussie taken to hospital as a precautionary measure.