Glenn Irwin smashes lap record to take Superbike pole at North West 200
After his dismal Tuesday practice, Glenn Irwin stormed back on Thursday to become the fastest man ever around the North West 200 circuit.
The Kawasaki rider put in a sensational time of 4:21.727, breaking the lap record set by Dean Harrison earlier in the session to take pole for tonight's race.
His sensational lap beat Harrison's by 0.2 seconds and ensures he will start at the front of the grid, something that seemed unfathomable on Tuesday.
Harrison thought he had pole wrapped up when he became the first man to break the 4:22 barrier, only to see Irwin pip him late in the session.
The Bradford man followed up his domination of Tuesday's practice by putting in a time that would seemingly not be beaten, only to be stunned by local man Irwin.
Alastair Seeley completes the front row and looks to be the only man who could potentially challenge the pair in tonight's race, with the 24-time Triangle winner just 0.071 seconds further back.
Seeley's consolation for missing out on Superbike pole is that he will start on pole in tonight's Supersport class, although he will face some strong competition there too.
However, the event's most successful rider hasn't had it all his own way when it comes to qualifying, pushed all the way by Lee Johnston.
Seeley's time from Tuesday's practice was not beaten in Thursday's session, meaning 'Wee Wizard' will lead the field off in tonight's race.
With an average speed of 116.547mph, Seeley only just about held off Johnston into second, the local man averaging 116.545mph.
Harrison will take to the grid in third, James Hillier will be first on the second row of the grid at fourth, with Peter Hickman and Michael Dunlop taking fifth and sixth.
Meanwhile, Hickman looks in imperious form as he flirted with the Superstock lap record during second practice at the North West 200.
The Englishman flew around the track in a time of 4:23.604, less than a second off the lap record and a full 1.64 seconds ahead of Irwin in second.
Hickman, on his BMW, was at one point 3.5 seconds ahead of his next closest challenger, Dunlop, however two late laps from Irwin and Hillier on Kawasakis closed the gap.
Irwin crossed to take second place on the grid just before the end of the session, followed in by Hillier who was a further 0.586 seconds adrift.
Dunlop, meanwhile, heads the second row of the grid after finishing fourth, with the top six finishers - Johnston and Harrison finishing the second row - all setting their fastest times today.
The session came to a premature end due to a red flag after a minor incident that saw one rider come off the track but not require any medical assistance.
And in the Supertwins, Derek McGee finished top of Thursday morning's second practice, however it wasn't enough to take Jamie Coward off pole position.
The Irishman clocked a time of 4:58.492 on his Kawasaki in the first run this morning, holding off the challenge of a much-improved Irwin and another fine time from Coward.
In damp and colder conditions than what all riders got in Tuesday's first practice, the times were understandably a lot slower as riders coped with the change in the weather.
Irwin, who was very upset with how he performed on Tuesday, was markedly better on his Kawasaki and thought he had finished on top with a strong late time.
However, he would have to settle for finishing 0.133 seconds behind McGee, who came in behind him with the session-leading time to throw his name back in the mix as a contender.
A surprise package was Italian rider Stefano Bonetti on his Paton, coming home in fourth with a time just 0.338 seconds behind leader McGee.
McGee's time was fast enough to get him onto the front row of the grid for tonight's race in third postion, with Coward starting first and Michael Rutter joining them in second.
There was concern for Jeremy McWilliams in the session when he came off his bike at the Magherabuoy Chicane, fortunately, however, he sustained no serious injuries and was back in the paddock later on.
Belfast Telegraph Digital