Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

North West 200: Super Seeley sets red hot pace

North West 200 practice night. Superbike practice session. Alastair Seeley

Alastair Seeley lived up to his star billing during the opening practice session for Saturday’s Relentless North West 200 by topping both the Superbike and Superstock sessions and finishing second in the Supersport class.

The diminutive Seeley set a fastest lap of 119.096mph in yesterday evening’s opening Superbike session held in dry, but windy conditions, and then just shaded Michael Dunlop to top Superstock qualifying.

The Carrickfergus rider, a double winner at the meeting last year, set his stall out halfway through the 35-minute Superbike session taking the Relentless Suzuki by TAS around the 8.9mile Portstewart-Coleraine-Portrush triangle in 4m 31.142secs, ending up less than a second faster than 12-time North West 200 winner Michael Rutter.

Seeley said: “It was fairly windy out there, but we managed to get our qualifying laps in and I’m well pleased to be in pole position in both classes at the moment with Thursday still to come.

“The machines were running perfectly and we are ready to rock and roll on Thursday morning.”

Surprise packet of the session was Rutter’s Rapid Solicitors– Bathams Ducati team-mate Martin Jessop who made it a team two-three on the provisional front row behind Seeley, but ahead of Gary Johnson, Stephen Thompson and Guy Martin, who make up the second row after the first qualifying practice.

The Dunlop brothers William and Michael were seventh and eighth quickest with Michael in particular having a difficult session getting the Street Sweep Kawasaki to his satisfaction, and it was only on the fourth of four laps completed that he managed to set the eighth fastest time of the session, although this was his only qualifying lap and he needs another fast lap come tomorrow to qualify.

Stuart Easton and Adrian Archibald were ninth and 10th

fastest with Kiwi Bruce Anstey 11th and Australian Cameron Donald 13th.

Ryan Farquhar suffered from clutch problems on his KMR Kawasaki Superstock machine and was well off the pace.

William Dunlop set the early pace in the Superstock class, but that man Seeley soon stamped his authority on the field with a speed of 118.420mph only to see Michael Dunlop get within 0.045sec of his fastest time on his sixth and final lap.

Rutter, William Dunlop, Ian Lougher and Adrian Archibald completed the top six 1.4secs apart.

In the Supersport session Seeley and Donald traded times at the head of the field with Donald eventually setting the fastest lap with a speed of 114.294mph a

tenth of a second ahead of Seeley who recorded 114.252mph.

Michael Dunlop, with a speed of 112.638mph on his final circuit, leapfrogged into third ahead of early pacesetter Gary Johnson and Anstey, with Martin again in sixth position.

Johnson’s East Coast Honda team-mate Lee Johnston was a superb ninth just behind Ian Lougher and Farquhar with Luis Carreira from Portugal tenth.

In contrast Donald’s Wilson Craig Honda team-m ate William Dunlop had a torrid session only managing two low-speed laps, neither near the qualifying speed for the race and with a lot of work to do come tomorrow morning.

Conor Cummins, making a return to road racing following his horrific accident during the Senior TT almost a year ago, took the McAdoo Kawasaki around in a speed of 107.430mph for 11th position.

Practice continues tomorrow morning with the roads closing at 9am, while on Saturday the roads close at 10am ahead of the five-race programme.