North West 200: Plater and Mac front up
With the opening salvos fired in the first qualifying session for Saturday’s Relentless North West 200, it is the HM Plant Honda duo of Steve Plater and John McGuinness who are 1-2 on the provisional grid for both Superbike races.
Both men are looking to cement that form in this morning’s final qualifying session around the 8.966 mile Triangle circuit.
Plater, the 41-year-old Lincolnshire rider, is the pre-race favourite given that he is an eight-time winner at the North West.
The Enlglishman, who currently leads the British Superstock Championship after three rounds, said: “I’m pretty pleased with that bearing in mind it is the first time I have ridden on the roads since the TT last year and it does take a lap or two to get dialled in.
“I feel we need to make a few changes to the bike and we should be able to go a little bit quicker if conditions allow.
“There was a lot of traffic out on the circuit and I never really got a clear lap in, so I’m pretty confident although there are a few quick men out there who are capable of knocking me off top spot.”
One of those will be Michael Dunlop, who is in fourth position on the grid, 3.9 seconds behind Plater after initial qualifying, his best ever Superbike run at the North West, riding the Robinson Concrete Honda. Dunlop, who is looking to become the first Irishman to win a Superbike race at the North West since Phillip McCallen in 1997, said: “Not bad for a wee private team against the factory boys. There is still a bit to come yet.”
Michael’s brother William will also be looking to better his first practice times in today’s final sessions.
The 24-year-old tops the 125cc class and only lost out to New Zealander Bruce Anstey in the final moments of Supersport qualifying. He said: “The bike was flying, so we’ll just continue on Thursday and try and get the bike fine tuned for Saturday’s race.”
Superstock machines will get their opportunity to qualify when practice continues today with the first morning session at the event. Roads close at 9.30am.