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North West 200: Michael Dunlop tops superbike class on Hawk BMW in opening qualifying

Published 10/05/2016

Michael Dunlop (BMW ) during practice race 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 set the Vauxhall International North West 200 on fire Tuesday, after posting the fastest lap in the Superbike class on his Hawk Racing BMW in the last seconds of the session.

The Ballymoney man, who was having his first pure roads outing of the year after opting to race in the BSB series rather than at the early season Irish Nationals, was over half a second faster than arch rival, Alastair Seeley.

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
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

“Aye, it was steady enough.” the 27 year old said after laying down the opening mark of the meeting in glorious sunshine.

“That is our first run out with the superbike and we have a bit to go yet with it but now we have a guide.”

Alastair Seeley, who is bidding to win a record 16th North West 200 race, was runner up in the session on the Briggs Equipment BMW.

“I hit the footpath at Juniper on the last lap and did a bit of motocrossing but I wasn’t on a quick lap anyway.” the Carrickfergus man said.

“We have a couple of tweaks to make to the bike and then I will happier but it is coping well with the bumps and that makes it easier.”

Tyco BMW’s Ian Hutchinson was third fastest, a further second back. Hutchinson and Dunlop were joint quickest through the speed trap, breaking the beam at 203.4mph.

“I am never a great qualifier but I am on the front row in each class so I am happy enough with that.” the Bingley man said.

“I don't think we have much more work to do with the bikes really.”

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

North West veterans John McGuinness and Michael Rutter circulated together for much of the session on their official Honda and Bathams/SMT BMW superbikes with McGuinness finishing fourth fastest just ahead of Rutter.

James Hillier was the fastest Kawasaki taking sixth place on the Quattro Plant ZX10R just ahead of Peter Hickman on the similar JG Speedfit bike. Conor Cummins (Honda), Bruce Anstey (Valvoline Padgetts Honda) and Lee Johnston (East Coast Construction/Burdens BMW) completed the top ten.

Dan Kneen’s stand in in the Mar-Train Yamaha squad, Jeremy McWilliams caused a minor sensation after posting 11th fastest time on his first ever laps of the superfast 8.9 mile Triangle circuit on the R1 Yamaha.

“I run into traffic or I think I could have been higher up the order.” the 51 year old said.

“Everything happens so fast out there on one of these superbikes as you approach Station at 190mph. The onboard television cameras don't do justice to the speed. It is scary and requires a huge amount of concentration.”

GearLink Kawasaki’s Alastair Seeley finished a massive 3.8 seconds faster than Ian Hutchinson (Came BPT Yamaha) in the Supersport qualifying session with Martin Jessopp taking third spot on the Riders Motorcycles Triumph.

Ben Wilson ready for the off at the opening practice session for the Vauxhall International North West 200 grid. 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

“My bike was missing a little bit as well.” Seeley said afterwards.

“I know the bike having raced with the team in the British championship in 2013 and they have given me everything that I have asked for with the bike.” the 36 year old said.

Hutchy had only ridden his R6 Yamaha for the first time at Oulton Park BSB last week before posting his runner up qualification time.

“It is great to have the good weather because it allows you to get some laps in and not be worrying about slipping off.” he smiled.

“We just need to make the bike stop better now and we wont be far away.”

“The boys said I was third and I didn’t believe them.” a surprised Martin Jessop said.

”Seeley came past at University and I couldn’t stay in his slipstream so I know that our gearing is way off.”

Jessopp topped the times in the Supertwins session on his Riders ER6 Kawasaki twin ahead of class specialists Ivan Lintin (RC Express Kawasaki) and Ryan Farquhar on his SGS/KMR Kawasaki. James Hillier (Quattro Plant Kawasaki) was fourth fastest and in form Paul Jordan (B+W Kawasaki) was fifth ahead of that man McWilliams on a second SGS/KMR ER6.

“I can’t believe that either!” Jessop said.

William Dunlop on the grid during the opening practice session for the Vauxhall International North West 200 today. 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

“I have never run the bike on a road before. The boys said to just do a few steady laps and get the fuelling right but we ended up fastest.”

Michael Rutter posted an impressive fastest time on the Bathams/SMT BMW he usually rides in the British Superstock series.

“I am well happy with that.” the 13 times North West winner said.

“It is good to be here on a bike that I ride all of the time. I can just jump on and get going with this bike because I know it but with the superbike that hasn’t turned a wheel before this week I am not sure what it is going to do.”

Rutter’s last race win at Portrush was in the Superstock event in 2012 and he believes he can win again.

“It was great to ride along the coast road in the sunshine today and see everyone at the side of the road.” the 44 year old said.

“I haven’t seen this place like that for about ten years and it felt just like the old days.”

Seeley (Briggs BMW) and Tyco BMW’s Ian Hutchinson were second and third with Michael Dunlop fourth fastest on the MD Racing BMW.

The opening practice session of the 2016 event was brought to a premature end with just a few minutes left to run of the Superstock session when Ben Wilson crashed his EHA Aprilia at Mill Road roundabout, sustaining a broken leg in the incident.

Practice commences on Thursday morning at 10 am with roads closing at 9.15am.

Dunlop changes teams for NW200

Four time North West winner William Dunlop had been due to ride a R1 Yamaha in the superbike class at the 2016 Vauxhall International North West 200 but after a split with CD Racing the Ballymoney man will only compete in the Supersport and Superstock classes at the seaside event.

“I will race a IC Racing Yamaha R6 and the MSS Kawasaki superstock spec ZX10R.” Dunlop explained.

The 30 year old finished 9th fastest in the 600cc class and 10th on the stocker. His 182mph speed trap time was almost 5mph faster than any other machine but Dunlop says she isn’t comfortable with the new machine just yet.

“It is quick but we are struggling to get it out of corners at the moment.” he said.

“But we aren’t far away in either class and I am happy with that.”

Ryan Farquhar has first run on Tyco BMW S1000RR

Dungannon’s Ryan Farquhar was 15th quickest in superbike practice on his first race outing on the Tyco BMW S1000RR.

“The bike is really fast but we need a few adjustments.” he explained.

“We tested at Kirkistown last week and I had a good set-up for there but it isn’t working here. We need to make some changes to the chassis and to the engine braking and we are still too low geared at the moment.”

Farquhar performed slightly better in the Superstock category, posting 12th fastest time on his IEG BMW and claimed provisional runner up slot in the Supertwins class.

Lee Johnston struggles with injury

Lee Johnston pulled in during the Superstock practice after banging his injured leg at Juniper.

“I was in so much pain I was crying.” The Fermanagh man said after retiring his ECC/Burdens BMW with fifth fastest time.

Johnston sustained an injured groin after suffering a high speed splits in a crash at the Scarborough Spring Cup a month ago but the winner of last year’s Superstock race at Portrush has still his sights set on race glory on Saturday.

“Once racing starts I’ll forget all about the pain.” he smiled.

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