Belfast Telegraph

North West 200: Warm weather, rapid racing and our riders setting the pace early

 

Super show: Michael Dunlop (Tyco BMW) during the opening Superbike practice session
Super show: Michael Dunlop (Tyco BMW) during the opening Superbike practice session

By Phillip McCallen

What an opening day at the North West 200! I would say that is the best first practice I’ve seen here for many, many years.

It was accident-free, we had beautiful weather on the north coast and the times were fast from the off.

We’ve learned a lot already and it was great to see so many of our riders from Northern Ireland right in the thick of things.

What about Michael Dunlop? It was a brilliant surprise to see him up there in the top three straight away. Michael hasn’t been in a race since last year’s Isle of Man TT but he showed why he’s a Dunlop yesterday.

You could see in his face that he was getting a powerful boost from his performances out there and he was simply relishing every minute of it.

That was a great high point, but on the downside I was sad to see Glenn Irwin looking so dejected. Glenn is an amazing rider but he just can’t get to grips with the Quattro Plant Kawasaki at the moment.

We’ve all had those blips in our careers but the bike is fixable because we’ve seen that it’s a great bike, with Jonathan Rea winning on the Kawasaki at the weekend in Imola.

For whatever reason, Glenn just hasn’t been able to gel with the bike but he’s trying hard and hopefully he will go to bed, try and forget about it and come back tomorrow a new person.

I think he will recover and get going in the right direction, but I can’t see him recovering enough to be fighting for Superbike wins.

Even if he gets things sorted out tomorrow, he’s still lost a day in reality compared to his main rivals. Sadly, I’m not sure he will be a rostrum man on the Superbike on Saturday.

I’ve got to mention Lee Johnston because he showed brilliant potential. He’s always been a good rider and sometimes it hasn’t fallen into place for him, but he is already running at blistering pace this year and he’s much happier with his set-up after putting together his own team.

That man Alastair Seeley also made a strong start, which is no surprise to any of us.

Alastair loves the Supersport class and he was quickest in that as expected, but he wasn’t far away either on Paul Bird’s Ducati.

I was impressed with Alastair because he only had his first proper test on the bike at Kirkistown on Sunday, so to be third fastest in the Superbike class shows that he’s heading in the right direction and I’m sure there’s more to come tomorrow.

There should be no reason why he won’t go into Saturday’s races as the man to beat, but that won’t scare Michael Dunlop!

Dean Harrison is on fire right now and it showed as he led the way in the Superbike class.

Along with Peter Hickman, those are the guys we expected to be up there and they are all certainly living up to what we expected.

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