Wee Wizard casts his Super spell to take charge in all three big clases
Record-breaker Alastair Seeley laid down a marker in sensational final qualifying ahead of tomorrow’s Vauxhall International North West 200 by taking pole position in all three major classes — Superbike, Superstock and Supersport.
The Wee Wizard, who had been tied on a record 15 NW200 wins with the late Robert Dunlop before moving ahead last night with victory in the opening Supersport race, said: “The Dunlop name is legendary and to be mentioned in the same breath is an amazing feeling.”
The final qualifying of the day for Superbike machines saw Seeley down in ninth position in the early stages, as Lee Johnston and Gary Johnson set the pace.
By mid-session Michael Dunlop had raced the Hawk BMW into provisional pole with a 122.335mph lap, Carrick ace Seeley moving into second at 122.028mph.
Half an hour in and Seeley set the fastest speed of the week at 122.243mph, 0.017secs ahead of Dunlop with Michael Rutter one and a half seconds back in third.
The session was brought to a premature end by red flags when Castledawson rider Nico Mawhinney, a newcomer to the circuit, crashed at Mill Road Roundabout and was taken by Air Ambulance to the Royal Victoria Hospital with non-life threatening pelvic injuries.
The session was not restarted, leaving Seeley on pole.
“In the early laps I had little grip, so I came in, made a few adjustments and we are right in the ball-park,” he said.
“This place is slip-stream city and we are all testing tyre longevity as the heat in the centre of the tyre could be a problem with the high speeds if the temperature remains the same.”
Seeley had earlier unofficially smashed the Superstock lap record with a stunning speed of 122.114mph to take pole position, almost two seconds faster than veteran Rutter with Peter Hickman third fastest at 121.173mph.
Seeley was just over a second and a half short of the outright lap record of Josh Brookes (122.958mph) in the second Superbike race.
Michael Dunlop was fifth fastest at 120.668mph, just behind the Tyco BMW of Ian Hutchinson, the early pace setter at 120.251mph.
Seeley said: “I was on an old Tuesday tyre. I came in, changed to new rubber and got a good clean run on my seventh of seven laps to take pole position.”
Seeley switched to the Gearlink Kawasaki for the Supersport session and was quickly down to business setting the fastest lap in the 50-minute session.
Yesterday’s qualifying times
Superbike: 1 A. Seeley 122.343mph, 2 M. Dunlop 122.335, 3 M. Rutter 121.648, 4 L. Johnston 121.065, 5 P. Hickman 120.911, 6 I. Hutchinson 120.755.
Superstock: A. Seeley 122.144mph, 2 M. Rutter 121.296, 3 P. Hickman 121.173, 4 I. Hutchinson 120.750, 5 M. Dunlop 120.668, 6 L. Johnston 120.251
Supersport: 1 A. Seeley 116.973mph, 2 M. Jessopp 116.543, 3 L. Johnston 116.476, 4 W. Dunlop 115.583, 5 J. McGuinness 115.413, 6 P. Hickman 115.098
Supertwin: 1 D. Cooper 108.114mph, 2 R. Farquhar 107.561, 3 I. Lintin 107.404, 4 P. Hickman 106.769, 5 J. Hillier 106.766, 6 J. McWilliams 106.554