Glenn Irwin took pole position with a new unofficial lap record on the Quattro Plant/Wicked Coatings Kawasaki ZX10RR in Thursday’s final qualifying session for Saturday’s Superbike races at the 2019 fonaCAB International North West 200 in association with Nicholl Oils.
The winner of the last three big bike races on the 8.9 mile Triangle circuit lapped in 4min 21.767sec, 0.328 sec faster than Michael Dunlop’s outright lap record that has stood since 2016.
‘It’s only pole but it’s important.’ Irwin said, referring to his lacklustre start to the 2019 BSB series and a poor opening North West qualifying session on Tuesday.
‘I was down in the dumps and in tears on Tuesday night. I haven’t been myself and didn’t want to be here but I came with a different attitude today.’
The pole position rounded off a good day for the Carrickfergus man who also qualified on the front row for the Superstock and Supertwins races on the Quattro Plant and KTS Racing Kawasakis.
Irwin had been helped on his ride to pole by Dean Harrison who circulated just in front of the Quattro Plant machine on his similar Silicone Kawasaki. Harrison also dipped under the existing lap record time before finishing 0.206 seconds behind Irwin.
Alastair Seeley completed the front row of the grid on the PBM/Be Wiser Ducati V4RR just 0.071 secs behind Harrison.
Almost three seconds- 2.792 secs- separated Seeley from fourth fastest Michael Dunlop (Tyco BMW). Manxman Conor Cummins pushed his way into the reckoning as fifth fastest on the Milenco Padgett’s Honda Fireblade and Lee Johnston (Ashcourt Racing BMW) completed the top six.
Newcomer Richard Cooper made the established frontrunners sit up and take notice with a brilliant ride 8thfastest on the Bennett’s/Buildbase Suzuki just behind Michael Rutter’s Batham’s Racing/Aspire Ho RCV213S Honda.
Ian Hutchinson (Honda Racing Fireblade) and James Hillier (Quattro Plant/ Wicked Coatings Kawasaki) completed the top ten. Peter Hickman completed just three laps on the Smith’s Racing BMW, failing to better his best time on Tuesday.
Derek Sheils jumped up the rankings, claiming 12thfastest time on the Burrows/RK Racing Suzuki after suffering brake problems on Tuesday.
David Johnson remains in 13thalthough he didn’t ride in the final superbike qualifying after crashing at Magherabouy in the earlier Supersport session.
Davey Todd, last year’s fastets newcomer finished 14thquickest on the Wepol/Penz13.com BMW but John McGuinness languishes 22ndfastest on the Norton in his North West comeback. The Morecambe man lapped three seconds faster than he had on Tuesday on the Norton SG8 but only completed one lap before stopping retiring.
Racing begins this evening (Thursday) at 5.45pm, after roads reclose at 5pm. The Tides Restaurant Supersport race opens the action followed by the Bayview Hotel Superstock event and the MCL Insuretech Supertwin race.
On Saturday roads close at 9.15am with a five race programme beginning at 10am. The Junction Retail and Lesiure Park Supersport race is followed by the first superbike race, sponsored by the Anchor Hotel and Restaurant Complex. The John M. Paterson Supertwin race and the CP Hire Superstock race follow with the Merrow Hotel and Spa NW200 feature Superbike race bringing the curtain down on the 2019 North West 200 action.