The last shots were fired in final qualifying yesterday for tomorrow’s McKinstry Skip Hire Ulster Grand Prix where the action is sure to be fast and furious around the 7.4mile Dundrod Circuit — currently the fastest road circuit in the world.
Ian Hutchinson celebrated his 31st birthday by claiming pole position for the two superbike races with a lap of 131.001mph, also fastest through the speed trap on the ‘Flying Kilo’ at 191mph.
Five-time TT winner Hutchy set his stall out early by going round on his third lap at 129.486mph.
With five minutes left, the Relentless Suzuki by TAS of Cameron Donald leapt from 14th position to the head of the field with a speed of 129.961mph and then in the closing moments three riders went around at over the 130mph mark, Hutchy fastest at 131 followed by Donald’s Relentless team mate Bruce Anstey at 130.625mph and Donald third on 130.242mph.
Ryan Farquhar with his Wednesday evening time of 129.812mph will complete the front row with Keith Amor, Guy Martin, Michael Dunlop and Ian Lougher completing the second row, the top six covered by less than three seconds.
Hutchinson said: “This is the first time I have ridden the superbike since the TT and it felt strong.
“I am here to give it my best shot to win as many races as I can and, having taken a record off Philip McCallen at the TT, maybe his five wins in a day here is a target for me.”
McCallen said of Hutchinson’s chances: “No, I don’t think he can. He is capable and has the machines, but there are one or two guys out there who just may upset his thoughts of equalling my record.”
Farquhar had the misfortune to suffer an engine problem and failed to complete a lap yesterday while the Dunlop brothers Michael and William were seventh and 16th respectively.
For the two supersport races, the Dunlops will start from second and third position just over a second behind, Amor who went round at 127.282mph; William doing 126.491 and Michael 125.670mph.
Hutchinson will complete the front row while Donald, Anstey, Farquhar and Gary Johnson will be close behind starting from the second in what could well turn out to be the races of the day.
Amor unofficially broke the lap record for the superstock class with a speed of 131.284mph.
Ian Lougher turned in the fastest time in the 250cc class 2.7secs while, in the supertwins class, Ryan Farquhar recorded the fastest time of 115.300mph, but suffered his second breakdown of the day.