Michael Dunlop’s stunning surge to double pole is better late than never
In blistering sunshine at Portrush yesterday, Michael Dunlop left it late to put the Motorrad/Hawk BMW on pole position ahead of tomorrow’s Superbike races at the Vauxhall North West 200.
The Ballymoney rider notched up a final lap of 122.275mph — an unofficial new lap record — to put himself almost a second faster than fellow BMW rider Michael Rutter.
In a typical understatement of what he had achieved on his first ride on the machine, the 25-year old said: “We’re getting there slowly but surely, but to get pole is a bonus ahead of the races.”
Dunlop doubled up on pole positions by putting his MD Racing BMW on pole for the Superstock class, while Alastair Seeley headed the Supersport action and to complete a local clean sweep of pole positions, Lee Johnston topped the Supertwins class.
Dunlop, down in eighth position early in the Superbike session, pulled into his garage to make adjustments that seemed to do the trick, as on the final two laps he jumped to the head of affairs —relegating Rutter and Seeley, who had been the early pace-setter, to second and third.
Tyco Suzuki team-mates Guy Martin and William Dunlop head row two, joined by Kiwi Bruce Anstey while Conor Cummins, Stuart Easton and Martin Jessopp make up row three.
The Milwaukee Yamahas of Josh Brookes and Ian Hutchinson will start from rows four and five
tomorrow while John McGuinness is also on row five, a recent wrist injury not helping his chances.
Dunlop had earlier left it to the last five minutes before setting pole position in the Superstock class that will see the Mar-Train Kawasaki of Seeley sandwiched between the BMWs of Dunlop and Rutter with just 0.7 seconds splitting the trio.
Dunlop’s speed, set in the closing moments of the 50 minute session, was 120.098mph, a qualifying record and a tenth of a second outside the official class lap record.
The second row sees Martin Jessopp in third position ahead of Simon Andrews and Horst Saiger, proving that his fastest speed on Tuesday was no fluke, as the Austrian bettered that achievement.
Big names outside the top 10 on the grid and with work to do will be Gary Johnson (11th), McGuinness (12th), William Dunlop (13th), Dean Harrison (14th) and Martin in 15th.
Seeley secured pole position and unofficially set a new Supersport lap record to head the field ahead of tomorrow’s six-lap race.
The Carrickfergus rider lapped at 117.160mph to fend off the Smith’s Triumph of Rutter by just over half a second while Johnston completes the front row on his ECC/Pirtek Honda.
William Dunlop, fastest on Tuesday was pushed back to fourth position alongside Gary Johnson and Josh Brookes, having his first ride on a Supersport machine since his 2008 World Supersport campaign.
The top four on the grid were all inside the current lap record of Keith Amor, set in 2010, Amor finishing yesterday’s session seventh fastest ahead of Martin, McGuinness and Harrison.
Michael Dunlop will start this race from the fourth row of the grid on his MD Honda.
The session was stopped and re-started after Maria Costello MBE, the only female competitor at this year’s North West, crashed and required medical attention.
Co Fermanagh rider Johnston made it a clean sweep of pole positions for local riders in tomorrow’s five races by setting the first sub-five minute lap by a Supertwin machine around the 8.97-mile Triangle.
Johnston went around in 4:59.408seconds a speed of 107.853mph over a second faster than Amor (107.356mph) with Ivan Lintin completing the front row.
The second row will be made up of Michael Dunlop, James Cowton and Jeremy McWilliams.
If the weather holds out tomorrow, tyres could have a deciding factor, with the high speed and temperatures achieved causing problems for some riders yesterday.
Belfast Telegraph Digital