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North West 200: A bad break for McGuinness as Rutter rolls back years

By Roy Harris

Yesterday’s final Superbike qualifying session was cut short after John McGuinness crashed the all-new Honda Fireblade at Primrose and was taken to hospital with a broken leg.

The 23-time TT winner had been running in 10th position and it spells the end of his TT ambitions for this year.

Starting tomorrow’s two Superbike races on pole position will be 13-time NW200 winner Michael Rutter on his Bathams BMW. His speed was 122.345mph, and he will start in front of Alastair Seeley (Tyco BMW). The PBM Be Wiser Ducati of the impressive Glenn Irwin completes the front row.

Michael Dunlop heads up row two on the all-new Bennetts Suzuki alongside Martin Jessopp and Peter Hickman.

Dunlop said of his new machine: “Today was the first time I had held the Suzuki flat out for two laps to gather data for the boys. I came in and changed the shock and was planning another fast lap, but the red flags stopped that. We are not a million miles away with how I want the bike and I’m ready to race.”

Seeley was sublime in Supersport qualifying on the Gearlink Kawasaki, setting pole position with a speed of 116.812mph — over a second faster than his old adversary in the class Lee Johnston (Jackson Honda), who had a second in hand over Michael Dunlop (MD Yamaha).

And Seeley set his stall out for the two Superstock races by unofficially setting a new lap record of 123.203mph.

The Wee Wizard said: “I wanted a clear track, but it’s a bit hit and miss if you come across two or three guys. I put in my fastest lap, but then on the next lap I had to abort that. I’m happy with pole, but this is slip stream city come the races and there could be seven or eight bikes dicing for the lead.”

Rutter will line up between Seeley and Johnston on the front row.

Guy Martin was black flagged at Metropole on his opening lap and said: “I didn’t actually crash, just laid the bike on its side at a slow speed. I got going again and was black flagged at Metropole. They wouldn’t let me go back to the pits.”

Jessopp secured pole for the Kawasaki-dominated Supertwin races with a fastest lap of 109.226mph, a quarter of a second outside the class lap record.

Ryan Farquhar’s two runners, Rutter (KMR IEG Kawasaki) and Johnston (KMR Air Ambulance Kawasaki), were second and fourth fastest respectively, with Dan Cooper splitting the duo.

Farquhar said: “There is pressure to make the bikes perform for two top class riders.”

North West 200 final qualifying

Superbike: 1st M. Rutter 122.345mph, 2nd A. Seeley 121.811mph, 3rd G. Irwin 121.556mph, 4th M Dunlop 121.510mph, 5th M. Jessopp 121.311mph

Supersport: 1st A. Seeley 116.812mph, 2nd L. Johnston 116.298, 3rd M. Dunlop 115.751, 4th M. Jessopp 115.530, 5th D. Harrison 115.466, 6th J. Hillier 115.300

Superstock: 1st A. Seeley 123.203mph, 2nd M. Rutter 121.918, 3rd L. Johnston 120.633, 4th I. Hutchinson 120.597, 5th D. Harrison 120.446, 6th M. Jessopp 120.140

Supertwin: 1st M. Jessopp 109.226mph, 2nd M. Rutter 108.799, 3rd D. Cooper 107.910, 4th L. Johnston 107.416, 5th I. Lintin 107.336, 6th D. Sheils 106.280

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