NW200: Alastair Seeley clinches Superstock pole with record lap
Alastair Seeley unofficially smashed his Tyco BMW team-mate Ian Hutchison's 2016 Superstock lap record to take pole at the Vauxhall International North West 200.
Seeley, who had been second fastest on Tuesday behind Michael Rutter, turned the tables on the English rider as the north coast basked in warm sunshine once again.
Rutter was almost three seconds behind on the Bathams SMT BMW, with Lee Johnston slotting into third to clinch a front row start on his East Coast Racing BMW.
Bradford rider Dean Harrison was fourth fastest on the Silicone Engineering Kawasaki, holding off Martin Jessopp (Riders Motorcycles BMW) and James Hillier (JG Speedfit Kawasaki).
Michael Dunlop made up late ground on his MD Racing Suzuki after a steady start, climbing to seventh on the new GSX-R1000.
The Ballymoney man was followed by Austrian Horst Saiger on his Kawasaki, with William Dunlop on the Temple Golf Club Yamaha in ninth.
Burton-on-Trent rider Peter Hickman suffered bad luck as he retired at Black Hill on the Smiths BMW, while Guy Martin was black flagged on his first lap at Metropole.
In the Supertwins qualifying session, Martin Jessopp carried over his strong pace from Tuesday to seal pole for the Supertwins races on the Riders Motorcycles Kawasaki.
The Somerset rider was a three-time podium finisher last year in the Supertwins and Supersport races at the North West.
Jessopp, who has been agonisingly close to an international victory with a series of runner-up finishes at the Macau Grand Prix in recent years, will feel he has a golden opportunity to clinch his maiden win in the first Supertwins race on Thursday evening on the north coast.
He was around 1.6 seconds faster than Michael Rutter (KMR/IEG Kawasaki), setting quickest lap of 109.226mph.
Jessopp, though, revealed he had a lucky escape following a big moment at Mather’s chicane.
“It nearly ended in tears on my out lap because I lost the front twice at Mather’s. It was so close and I was lucky to stay on.
“The track was just so dirty there but apart from that it’s in good condition everywhere else. The bike’s going good and we’ll just keep pushing.”
Stroud’s Dan Cooper was third fastest on his Kawasaki, with last year’s double winner Ivan Lintin next on the Dafabet RC Express Kawasaki.
Cooper, who was caught up in Ryan Farquhar’s horror crash at the event in the Supertwins last year, said: “It’s really hard to get away around here because the bikes are so evenly matched on top speed. The choice of gearing is critical and it makes so much difference.
“You have to try and find the right balance because in the slipstreaming, you can find yourself running out of legs on the long straights here.”
Lee Johnston, who won both Supertwin races in 2014, was fifth quickest on the KMR/NI Air Ambulance Kawasaki while James Cowton rounded out the top six on the McAdoo Racing Kawasaki.
Derek Sheils was eighth fastest on the combined times on the Cookstown B.E. Racing Kawasaki followed by Northern Ireland riders Adam McLean and Paul Jordan, who complete the first ten.
Mark Dangerfield crashed at Ballysally Roundabout but was reported to be up on his feet.
Thursday Race Schedule (Roads closed 5pm-9pm)
Race 1 – HEL Performance Supersport Race
Race 2 – Bayview Hotel Superstock Race
Race 3 – Vauxhall Supertwin Race