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Magic Michael Dunlop throws down the gauntlet at North West 200

Dunlop won’t let Seeley take his father’s NW crown without a fight

By Roy Harris

Published 11/05/2016

Press Eye Northern Ireland - Thursday May 12 2016
North West 200 International Road Races Vauxhall Supertwin Race Mandatory credit - Pic by John McIlwaine Press Eye
Daniel Cooper leads Ryan Farquahar on lap two of the red flagged Supertwin Race
Press Eye Northern Ireland - Thursday May 12 2016 North West 200 International Road Races Vauxhall Supertwin Race Mandatory credit - Pic by John McIlwaine Press Eye Daniel Cooper leads Ryan Farquahar on lap two of the red flagged Supertwin Race
Alastair Seeley celebrates winning the opening Supersport race during Thurday's Supersport race at the North West 200. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
Press Eye - Northern Ireland - 12th May 2016 Vauxhall International North West 200. Christian Elkin makes his way over Primrose Hill during the Supertwins. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
Press Eye - Northern Ireland - 12th May 2016 Vauxhall International North West 200. Following a red flag during the Supertwin race, fire crews were called to Station Corner to deal with the incident. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
Press Eye - Northern Ireland - 12th May 2016 Vauxhall International North West 200. Ryan Farquhar lead at the start of lap 3 of the Supertwins race. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
Press Eye - Northern Ireland - 12th May 2016 Vauxhall International North West 200. Martin Jessopp pictured at Primrose Hill during the Supertwins. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
PACEMAKER BELFAST 12/05/2016 Alastair Seeley celebrates winning the opening Supersport race this evening with Ian Hutchinson 2nd and Martin jessops third during this evenings Supersport race at the North West 200. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 12th May 2016 Vauxhall International 2016 North West 200. Thursday racing. Race two. VAUXHALL Supertwin Race. Some seen from the paddock area as the race is red flagged due to a a fire close to the track. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 12th May 2016 Vauxhall International 2016 North West 200. Thursday racing. Race one. Actavo Events Supersport Race. Alastair Seeley wins with Ian Hutchinson in second and Martin Jessop in third. Alastair Seeley pictured with his girlfriend Danny Henry after winning is 16th race at the North West which has outdone the previous record held by Robert Dunlop. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 12/5/2016: Alastair Seeley's girlfriend, Danni had a nail biting time as she watched the last lap of the Supersport race with her boyfriend on his way to becoming the most successful North West 200 racer of al-time by taking his 16th win. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 12th May 2016 Vauxhall International 2016 North West 200. Thursday racing. Race one. Actavo Events Supersport Race. Alastair Seeley wins with Ian Hutchinson in second and Martin Jessop in third. Alastair Seeley pictured after winning is 16th race at the North West which has outdone the previous record held by Robert Dunlop. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 12th May 2016 Vauxhall International 2016 North West 200. Thursday racing. Race one. Actavo Events Supersport Race. Alastair Seeley wins with Ian Hutchinson in second and Martin Jessop in third. Alastair Seeley pictured after winning is 16th race at the North West which has outdone the previous record held by Robert Dunlop. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
DAVE KNEEN/PACEMAKER PRESS, BELFAST: 12/05/2016: Alastair Seeley leads the start of the opening Supersport race at the North West 200.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 12th May 2016 Vauxhall International 2016 North West 200. Thursday racing. Race one. Actavo Events Supersport Race. Alastair Seeley wins with Ian Hutchinson in second and Martin Jessop in third. Alastair Seeley(centre) pictured after winning is 16th race at the North West which has outdone the previous record held by Robert Dunlop. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland -12/05/2016. Picture by Dessie Loughery International North West 200 Supersport Race John McGuinness (Jackson Honda Racing Honda )
PACEMAKER BELFAST 12/05/2016 Alastair Seeley celebrates winning the opening Supersport race during this evenings Supersport race at the North West 200. Photo Stephen Davison/Pacemaker Press
@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 12th May 2016 Mandatory Credit -Brian Little/Presseye Ian Hutchinson CameBPT Yamaha R6 leads William Dunlop over Black's Hill during Thursday's nights Actavo Events Supersport Race at the Vauxhall International North West 200 around the 'Triangle' circuit. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 12th May 2016 Mandatory Credit -Brian Little/Presseye Alastair Seeley Gearlink Kawasaki leads Lee Johnston ECC/Burdens Triumph over Black's Hill during Thursday's nights Actavo Events Supersport Race at the Vauxhall International North West 200 around the 'Triangle' circuit. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
Sailing to the International North West 200 with P&O Ferries - motorbike fans from across the UK and Europe arriving at Larne. Hundreds of motorbike enthusiasts are expected to make the journey over the next couple of days. May 2016
The biggest concentration of bikers have arrived in Belfast today, Thursday 12 May, when approximately 150 motorcyclists will start their engines and stream off the Stena Line, Cairnryan to Belfast service, forming a massive convoy to make their way to the North West 200 May 12, 2016 Belfast , Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye )
The biggest concentration of bikers have arrived in Belfast today, Thursday 12 May, when approximately 150 motorcyclists will start their engines and stream off the Stena Line, Cairnryan to Belfast service, forming a massive convoy to make their way to the North West 200 May 12, 2016 Belfast , Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye )
The biggest concentration of bikers have arrived in Belfast today, Thursday 12 May, when approximately 150 motorcyclists will start their engines and stream off the Stena Line, Cairnryan to Belfast service, forming a massive convoy to make their way to the North West 200 May 12, 2016 Belfast , Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye )
The biggest concentration of bikers have arrived in Belfast today, Thursday 12 May, when approximately 150 motorcyclists will start their engines and stream off the Stena Line, Cairnryan to Belfast service, forming a massive convoy to make their way to the North West 200 May 12, 2016 Belfast , Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye )
The biggest concentration of bikers have arrived in Belfast today, Thursday 12 May, when approximately 150 motorcyclists will start their engines and stream off the Stena Line, Cairnryan to Belfast service, forming a massive convoy to make their way to the North West 200 May 12, 2016 Belfast , Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye )
The biggest concentration of bikers have arrived in Belfast today, Thursday 12 May, when approximately 150 motorcyclists will start their engines and stream off the Stena Line, Cairnryan to Belfast service, forming a massive convoy to make their way to the North West 200 May 12, 2016 Belfast , Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye )
The biggest concentration of bikers have arrived in Belfast today, Thursday 12 May, when approximately 150 motorcyclists will start their engines and stream off the Stena Line, Cairnryan to Belfast service, forming a massive convoy to make their way to the North West 200 May 12, 2016 Belfast , Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye )
The biggest concentration of bikers have arrived in Belfast today, Thursday 12 May, when approximately 150 motorcyclists will start their engines and stream off the Stena Line, Cairnryan to Belfast service, forming a massive convoy to make their way to the North West 200 May 12, 2016 Belfast , Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye )
The biggest concentration of bikers have arrived in Belfast today, Thursday 12 May, when approximately 150 motorcyclists will start their engines and stream off the Stena Line, Cairnryan to Belfast service, forming a massive convoy to make their way to the North West 200 May 12, 2016 Belfast , Northern Ireland ( Photo by Kevin Scott / Presseye )
Miss North West 200 Chloe McMaster wins the competition in the paddock on Tuesday evening. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
Sailing to the International North West 200 with P&O Ferries - motorbike fans from across the UK and Europe arriving at Larne. Hundreds of motorbike enthusiasts are expected to make the journey over the next couple of days. May 2016
Vauxhall International North West 200. Danny Webb.
Chloe McMaster named Miss North West 200 for 2016.
Vauxhall International North West 200. Maria Costello on the grid along with her team.
Chloe McMaster named Miss North West 200 for 2016.
Ryan Farquhar.
Chloe McMaster named Miss North West 200 for 2016.
Press Eye - Northern Ireland - 12th May 2016 Vauxhall International North West 200. Michael Sweeney. Photographer - ©Matt Mackey / Press Eye
Press Eye - Northern Ireland - 12th May 2016 Vauxhall International North West 200. Maria Costello on the grid along with her team. Photographer - ©Matt Mackey / Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland -12/05/2016. Picture by Dessie Loughery International North West 200 Superstock Race Michael Dunlop (BMW )
Press Eye - Northern Ireland - 12th May 2016 Vauxhall International North West 200. Maria Costello. Photographer - ©Matt Mackey / Press Eye
@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 12th May 2016 Mandatory Credit -Brian Little/Presseye Ryan Farquhar SGS/IEG/KMR Kawasaki at Church Corner during Thursday's Supertwin practice at the Vauxhall International North West 200 around the 'Triangle' circuit. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
Press Eye - Northern Ireland - 12th May 2016 Vauxhall International North West 200. Michael Rutter in the Superstock practice at York Corner on Thursday morning. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
Press Eye - Northern Ireland - 12th May 2016 Vauxhall International North West 200. Donald Macfadyen in the Superstock practice at York Corner on Thursday morning. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 12/5/2016: NI Secretary of State Theresa Villiers and North Antrim MP Ian Paisley is shown round the Control Room of the Vauxhall International North West 200 by Event Director Mervyn Whyte during her visit to the race at Portrush today. Also included are John and Valerie Creighton and their daughter Rhonda who man the radios. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
Press Eye - Northern Ireland - 12th May 2016 ** NO IMAGE FEE ** Vauxhall International North West 200. Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Theresa Villiers visits the famous North West 200 course between Portrush and Portstewart and is given a tour of the grid by race director Mervyn Whyte. Photographer - ©Matt Mackey / Press Eye
Honda road races John McGuinness and Conor Cummins enjoy a day off at the North West 200 by taking at trip to the Giants Causeway.
Miss North West 200 Chloe McMaster is congratulated by third placed Hollie Hanson and runner up Shannon Henry after the competition in the paddock on Tuesday evening. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland -10/05/2016. Picture by Dessie Loughery International North West 200 Supertwin Race Jeremy McWilliams (SGS/IEG/KMR Kawasaki )
Press Eye - Northern Ireland - 10th May 2016 Vauxhall International North West 200 Jill McWilliams along with her husband Jeremy McWilliams who is racing. Photographer - ©Matt Mackey / Press Eye
Michael Rutter (Bathams/SMT Racing BMW ) during today's practices for the Vauxhall International North West 200, in Coleraine. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Michael Dunlop (BMW ) during practice race for the Vauxhall International North West 200, in Coleraine. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Michael Dunlop is all smiles after setting fattest Superbike time during the opening practice session for the Vauxhall International North West 200. Picture by Stephen Davison
William Dunlop on the grid during the opening practice session for the Vauxhall International North West 200 today. Picture by Stephen Davison
Ben Wilson ready for the off at the opening practice session for the Vauxhall International North West 200 grid. Picture by Stephen Davison
Hector Neill looks over the grid. Vauxhall International North West 200.
Chloe McMaster named Miss North West 200 for 2016.
Vauxhall International North West 200. Philip Neill
Ian Hutchinson makes his way through the paddock.
Vauxhall International North West 200. Ryan Farquhar.
North West 200 2016 Bruce Anstey
Vauxhall International North West 200. Ian Hutchinson makes his way to the grid.
Vauxhall International North West 200 Tuesday practice gets under way. William Dunlop. Press Eye - Northern Ireland - 10th May 2016 Photographer - ©Matt Mackey / Press Eye
Vauxhall International North West 200 Tuesday practice gets under way. William Dunlop. Press Eye - Northern Ireland - 10th May 2016 Photographer - ©Matt Mackey / Press Eye
North West 200 2016 Practice has begun at the Vauxhall International North West 200 around the high speed Triangle circuit. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
Vauxhall International North West 200. Michael Dunlop. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
Vauxhall International North West 200 Tuesday practice gets under way. Danni Henry finance of Alastair Seeley. Photographer - ©Matt Mackey / Press Eye Press Eye - Northern Ireland - 10th May 2016
North West 200 2016 Practice has begun at the Vauxhall International North West 200 around the high speed Triangle circuit. Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
Vauxhall International North West 200 Tuesday practice gets under way. Conor Cummins Honda Photographer - ©Matt Mackey / Press Eye
Pacemaker Belfast 10-5-16 Vauxhall International North West 200 - 2016 Alastair Seeley (Gearlink Kawasaki Kawasaki )during today's practices for the Vauxhall International North West 200, in Coleraine. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Vauxhall International North West 200 Tuesday practice gets under way. Danni Henry along with finance Alastair Seeley. Photographer - ©Matt Mackey / Press Eye
Pacemaker Belfast 10-5-16 Vauxhall International North West 200 - 2016 Alastair Seeley (Gearlink Kawasaki Kawasaki )during today's practices for the Vauxhall International North West 200, in Coleraine. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Vauxhall International North West 200 Tuesday practice gets under way. Jamie Hamilton. Photographer - ©Matt Mackey / Press Eye
Pacemaker Belfast 10-5-16 Vauxhall International North West 200 - 2016 Lee Johnston (East Coast Construction/Burdens Triumph ) during today's practices for the Vauxhall International North West 200, in Coleraine. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Vauxhall International North West 200 Tuesday practice gets under way. Lee Johnston. Photographer - ©Matt Mackey / Press Eye
Pacemaker Belfast 10-5-16 Vauxhall International North West 200 - 2016 Lee Johnston (East Coast Construction/Burdens Triumph ) during today's practices for the Vauxhall International North West 200, in Coleraine. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Vauxhall International North West 200 Tuesday practice gets under way. John McGuinness. Photographer - ©Matt Mackey / Press Eye
Vauxhall International North West 200 Tuesday practice gets under way. Jeremy McWilliams and Michael Rutter. Photographer - ©Matt Mackey / Press Eye
Pacemaker Belfast 10-5-16 Vauxhall International North West 200 - 2016 James Hillier (Quattro Plant Muc-off Kawasaki Kawasaki ) during today's practices for the Vauxhall International North West 200, in Coleraine. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Vauxhall International North West 200 Tuesday practice gets under way. John McGuinness Photographer - ©Matt Mackey / Press Eye
Pacemaker Belfast 10-5-16 Vauxhall International North West 200 - 2016 Ian Hutchinson (Came BPT Yamaha Yamaha )during today's practices for the Vauxhall International North West 200, in Coleraine. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Pacemaker Belfast 10-5-16 Vauxhall International North West 200 - 2016 John McGuinness (Jackson Honda Racing Honda ) during today's practices for the Vauxhall International North West 200, in Coleraine. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Vauxhall International North West 200. Malachi Mitchell-Thomas. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye
Vauxhall International North West 200 Tuesday practice gets under way. Danni Henry along with finance Alastair Seeley. Photographer - ©Matt Mackey / Press Eye
Pacemaker Belfast 10-5-16 Vauxhall International North West 200 - 2016 William Dunlop (CD/IC Racing/Caffrey International Yamaha ) during today's practices for the Vauxhall International North West 200, in Coleraine. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press
Vauxhall International North West 200 Tuesday practice gets under way. John McGuinness. Photographer - ©Matt Mackey / Press Eye
Pacemaker Belfast 10-5-16 Vauxhall International North West 200 - 2016 Dean Harrison (Silicone Engineering Kawasaki ) during today's practices for the Vauxhall International North West 200, in Coleraine. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press

With the north coast bathed in sunshine for yesterday’s opening practice sessions of the Vauxhall International North West 200, Michael Dunlop fired a shot across the bows of his Superbike rivals when he topped the 40-minute session on his Hawk BMW with a speed of 121.652mph.

It put the Ballymoney man half a second ahead of the Briggs RAF Reserve BMW of Alastair Seeley, who is attempting to beat Michael’s late father Robert’s record of wins around the 8.97-mile circuit come racing time — the Carrickfergus ace is currently tied with the ‘Mighty Micro’ on 15 wins each.

However, the fastest lap of the day went to veteran Michael Rutter in Superstock when he lapped at 121.847mph, an unofficial lap record for the class.

BMW machines filled the first three positions of the provisional Superbike front row with the Tyco BMW of Ian Hutchinson in third position behind Dunlop and Seeley with a lap of 120.894mph.

In his 22nd year of coming to the North West, John McGuinness slotted his Honda into fourth position ahead of Rutter and James Hillier.

On board the Mar-Train Yamaha, Jeremy McWilliams — deputising for the injured Dan Kneen — was a respectable 11th fastest at 118.060mph on his first serious outing on the machine.

The speed trap situated on the stretch of the circuit heading towards University Corner recorded five times over 200mph with Dunlop and Hutchinson equal at 203.4mph.

Tyco BMW’s Ryan Farquhar — 15th fastest overall — broke the timing beam at 201mph, while Seeley and McGuinness both clocked 200.4mph on their respective BMW and Honda.

Bathams SMT BMW ace Rutter — a 13-time North West winner — just edged out Seeley in the Superstock class, having to take the unofficial lap record to claim provisional pole.

BMW dominated the first seven places on the provisional grid with Hutchinson, Dunlop, Lee Johnston, Martin Jessopp and Gary Johnson following the leading duo home.

The session ended early after a red flag incident at Mill Road Chicane, where Ben Wilson of Lincolnshire crashed heavily. He was taken to hospital with a suspected broken leg.

In an eventful session, Lee Johnston high-sided from his BMW and sustained no serious injuries while Brandon Cretu of Pennsylvania came off his Bimota at University Corner and returned in the pillion of the travelling doctor’s motorcycle relatively unscathed. 

William Dunlop, Ryan Farquhar and McWilliams finished in 10th, 12th and 14th positions respectively.

The opening practice session of the day was for Supersport machines and Seeley, who was Gearlink Kawasaki mounted, topped the times a massive 3.880 seconds ahead of the Came BPT Yamaha of Ian Hutchinson.

It was a great result for Hutchinson, who six years ago feared he would have to have his leg amputated following an horrific crash at Silverstone. The Bingley ace has since defied the odds to battle back to the top of the sport.

Seeley came within a second and a half of his own lap record, setting a high standard ahead of tomorrow’s final qualifying session.

Yeovil’s Jessopp was third fastest on his Rider’s Triumph, less than a second behind Hutchy, with Hull-based Co Fermanagh rider Lee Johnston in fourth.

Michael Dunlop finished the session in sixth with a speed of 113.302mph on his MD Racing Yamaha just over seven and a half seconds behind Seeley.

Now running his own team following the split with CD Racing, William Dunlop put it all behind him to finish in ninth position on his IC Caffrey Yamaha, but significantly he was fastest through the speed trap at 182mph, four and a half miles an hour faster than the Quattro Plant Kawasaki of Hillier.

On the Mar-Train Yamaha, McWilliams finished 11th on his Supersport debut at the Triangle, the 52-year-old former Grand Prix rider registering a lap of 112.731mph and a speed of 170.5mph through the trap.

Farquhar and McWilliams were the early pace-setters in Supertwin qualifying, but at the end of the 30-minute session it was Jessopp who emerged as provisional fastest with a lap of 107.348mph, just four one hundredths of a second ahead of fellow Englishman Ivan Lintin.

Farquhar had to settle for third at 106.781mph while SGS/IEG/KMR Kawasaki team-mate McWilliams came sixth behind Hillier and Magherafelt rider Paul Jordan, who was thrilled to beat two-time NW winner McWilliams.

Lintin and Farquhar both flew through the speed trap at 158.8 mph while McWilliams was 14th at 153mph.

Ballymena rider Mark Shields had the misfortune of crashing out at the final bend and was led away with a suspected arm injury.

Qualifying continues tomorrow morning with roads closing at 9.15am with four sessions for Supertwin, Superstock, Supersport and Superbike.

The roads will re-open again at 3pm before closing once again two hours later with the first three races for Supersport (six laps), Supertwin (four laps) and Superstock (six laps) set to take place.

If there is a repeat of yesterday’s warm, dry weather then records will undoubtedly be in jeopardy.

Qualifying

Superbike: 1 M. Dunlop 121.652mph, 2 A. Seeley 121.386, 3 I. Hutchinson 120.894, 4 J. McGuinness 120.231, 5 M. Rutter 119.860, 6 J. Hillier 119.024.

Superstock: 1 M. Rutter 121.847mph, 2 A. Seeley 121.403, 3 I. Hutchinson 120.803, 4 M. Dunlop 120.651, 5 L. Johnston 120.258, 6 M. Jessopp 120.049.

Supersport: 1 A. Seeley 116.412mph, 2 I. Hutchinson 114.806, 3 Martin Jessopp 114.412, 4 L. Johnston 114.081, 5 J. McGuinness 113.805, 6 Dean Harrison 113.365.

Supertwin: 1 M. Jessopp 107.348mph, I. Lintin 107.332, 3 R. Farquhar 106.781, 4 J Hillier 106.491, 5 P. Jordan 106.022, 6 J. McWilliams 105.902.

Super show: Michael Dunlop led the way in Superbike practice but the old guard of Jeremy McWilliams and Michael Rutter (top) showed they still have plenty to offer while (above) Alastair Seeley was top of the Supersport standings presseye/pacemaker

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