Glenn Irwin dramatically turned his fortunes around to grab pole with an unofficial Superbike lap record on the Quattro Plant Kawasaki.
The Carrick man cut a downbeat figure on Tuesday as he struggled with the ZX-10RR, but it was very much a different story in final qualifying as the triple Superbike winner fired in a sizzling lap of 123.262mph, which was under Michael Dunlop’s 2016 lap record of 123.207mph.
Irwin was 0.206s ahead of Dean Harrison (Silicone Engineering Kawasaki), with Alastair Seeley only a further 0.071s adrift on the PBM Be Wiser Ducati as the top three all dipped under Dunlop’s existing outright benchmark.
Ballymoney man Dunlop was fourth quickest on the Tyco BMW on the combined Superbike times with a speed of 121.932mph – three seconds down on Irwin – while Manx rider Conor Cummins was fifth on the Milenco by Padgett’s Honda (121.803mph).
Lee Johnston (Ashcourt Racing BMW) completed the top six ahead of Michael Rutter, who is riding the Bathams/Aspire-Ho Honda RCV.
Honda Racing’s Ian Hutchinson and James Hillier (Quattro Plant Kawasaki) completed the top ten for Saturday’s two headline Superbike races.
Lee Johnston topped the leader board in the final Supersport session at the North West 200, but it was Alastair Seeley who secured pole by only 0.005 seconds.
Seeley’s time from Tuesday was enough to give him the prime position on the front row on his EHA Racing Yamaha, but Johnston is hot on his tail on his Ashcourt Racing Yamaha.
James Hillier was third fastest in the second session on the Quattro Plant Kawasaki, while Peter Hickman climbed the order into fourth on the Trooper Beer Triumph.
Derek McGee also moved up the order on his Kawasaki into fifth, with Carrick man Seeley sixth fastest in the session ahead of Michael Dunlop (MD Racing Honda).
The session was stopped initially following a red flag incident when a rider came off on the approach to Ballysally roundabout. The incident was officially described as ‘not serious’.
A further stoppage occurred at the end of the restarted session after a crash at Magherabuoy chicane. The rider involved was not seriously injured.
Peter Hickman lit up Thursday practice at the North West 200 with a scorching lap on his Smiths BMW Superstock machine.
Hickman was only one second outside the lap record as he clocked a speed of 122.502mph on the all-new S1000RR.
He bagged pole for the class by 1.6 seconds from Glenn Irwin on the Quattro Plant/Wicked Coatings Kawasaki, whose team-mate James Hillier was half-a-second further back in third.
Michael Dunlop was fourth quickest on his MD Racing BMW at 121.052mph, three seconds down on Hickman, while Lee Johnston (Ashcourt Racing BMW) and Dean Harrison (Silicone Engineering Kawasaki) were the top six.
The session was red-flagged with around five minutes remaining after Craig Neve was reported to have come off at Magherabuoy. However, he was said to be up and walking.
Yorkshireman Jamie Coward held onto pole in the Supertwin class as Derek McGee set the fastest time in the second practice session at the 90th anniversary North West 200.
McGee, riding the KMR Kawasaki, set the fastest lap on Thursday at 108.184mph to edge out Glenn Irwin (KTS Kawasaki) by only 0.133s.
Coward, was third quickest on his KTS Kawasaki, just 0.235s down on McGee, although he has secured pole based on his time from Tuesday. Italy’s Stefano Bonetti was the first of the Paton machines in fourth.
Michael Rutter (Bathams/KMR Kawasaki) and Horst Saiger (Paton) were next as the top six were covered by 3.9 seconds.
Jeremy McWilliams slid off at Magherabuoy chicane on the KMR Kawasaki but was up and walking afterwards.
The first Supertwin, Superstock and Supersport races take place this evening over four laps of the 8.9-mile ‘Triangle’ course.
Roads will open no later than 3pm ahead of tonight’s evening race schedule.
Thursday, May 16
(Roads closed 5pm-9pm)
Race 1 – Tides Restaurant Supersport Race (6 laps)
Race 2 – Bayview Hotel Superstock Race (6 laps)
Race 3 – MCL InsureTech Supertwin Race (4 laps)