Bruce Anstey throws down gauntlet to his big rivals
Flying Kiwi Bruce Anstey set Dundrod alight in the final qualifying session yesterday ahead of tomorrow's Metzeler Ulster Grand Prix. The Valvoline Padgetts Honda rider flew around the 7.4-mile track in 3 minutes 20.083 seconds – a speed of 133.165mph – to take pole position for the Superbike races, just 1.2 seconds outside of his own track record of 133.977mph set in 2010.
In a blistering 40-minute session, eight riders topped the 130mph mark and it sees Anstey, 10-times a Dundrod winner, joined on the front row by Guy Martin, who has topped the podium in Co. Antrim on no fewer than 14 occasions himself.
Joining Martin on his Tyco Suzuki (132.801mph) will be his team-mate William Dunlop (132.047mph) and Michael Dunlop (131.686mph) on the BMW Motorrad.
There was a sensational performance from Peter Hickman, who became the fastest newcomer around the Dundrod Circuit with a speed of 131.192mph on his Ice Valley Superstock BMW.
That will see him start in seventh position on the grid having earlier in the day crashed at Wheelers on the same machine.
"I totalled the bike in the crash and had to go around the paddock to beg, steal or borrow new forks, yoke, radiator and bits and pieces to get us going again," he said afterwards.
"Despite this, the bike felt mint on my first lap out again and after a couple of tweaks I managed to set my quickest time."
The other riders to top 130mph were Lee Johnston (131.673mph), Dan Kneen (131.210mph) and Dean Harrison (130.663mph).
Earlier, the Supersport final qualifying session was red-flagged after five minutes when ex-Grand Prix competitor and newcomer to the UGP, Danny Webb, crashed heavily at Joey's (Windmill) and was taken to hospital with fractures, but non-life threatening injuries.
On the re-start, Lee Johnston had just set the fastest lap at 126.827mph when the red flags were displayed again when a rider crashed uninjured at the hairpin.
The rest of the session was scrapped, leaving Johnston with his first UGP pole position.
He will be joined on the front row by William Dunlop, Michael Dunlop and Harrison, with only Harrison improving his time from Wednesday due to the shortened session.
Yesterday's Ulster Grand Prix qualifying sessions got under way on a dry track with Michael Dunlop speeding to pole position for tomorrow's Around A Pound Superstock race with the only 130mph plus lap (131.658mph) of the 30-minute qualifying, almost three seconds faster than his rivals.
Harrison, Martin, Johnston, Kneen and Anstey were all within a second of each other filling second to sixth position in yesterday's half-hour session.
Hickman had the misfortune to crash out at Wheelers, fortunately without injury in this session.
"I was on an out lap and maybe left my braking slightly late. Next thing the back wheel caught the grass and down I went," he said.
Hickman's time from Wednesday of 129.248mph will see him start from fifth on the grid in tomorrow's race.
Ivan Lintin came within four seconds of unofficially breaking Ryan Farquhar's 2012 Supertwins lap record with a speed of 118.079mph, half a second ahead of Johnston and Keith Amor with Michael Sweeney completing the front row.
Glenn Irwin, third fastest on Wednesday, never completed a lap yesterday when his VRS Kawasaki cut out on the climb from Leathemstown towards Deers Leap.
Unfortunately this means despite qualifying in second position for yesterday's race, Irwin will be forced to start from the back of the grid tomorrow.
In combined Ultra Lightweight/Lightweight qualifying, newcomers James Cowton and Neil Kernohan topped the time sheets on their 250GP Honda's at 110.911mph and 107.791mph respectively. They will be joined on the front row by French rider Pierre Favre on his Yamaha and the Honda of Ian Morrell.
Christian Elkin heads the 125/Moto3 field with a speed of 106.500mph, five seconds clear of Daley Mathison, Paul Jordan and William Cowden.