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Switch to British Superbike machine pays off as Glenn Irwin puts ‘terrible’ Tuesday behind him at North West 200

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Speed king: Glenn Irwin on his Honda Racing UK machine during yesterday’s Superbike practice. Credit: David Maginnis/Pacemaker

Speed king: Glenn Irwin on his Honda Racing UK machine during yesterday’s Superbike practice. Credit: David Maginnis/Pacemaker

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Speed king: Glenn Irwin on his Honda Racing UK machine during yesterday’s Superbike practice. Credit: David Maginnis/Pacemaker

Glenn Irwin’s decision to switch to his British Superbike machine paid dividends in final Superbike qualifying at the North West 200 yesterday.

On Tuesday, the Carrickfergus man was unhappy with some elements of the electronics on the Honda Racing Fireblade that had been specifically built for the North West and Isle of Man TT, where the 32-year-old is gearing up for his debut in a few weeks.

Irwin, though, brushed those frustrations aside on the north coast as he threw down the gauntlet in his quest for a fifth successive Superbike triumph around the 8.9-mile ‘Triangle’ course.

He dipped under Michael Dunlop’s 2016 lap record with a speed of 124.102mph, which put him 2.2s ahead of England’s Peter Hickman (FHO Racing BMW).

Hickman was narrowly outside Dunlop’s six-year-old benchmark as he lapped at 123.042mph, while the front row for tomorrow’s two headline races was completed by Richard Cooper on the Hawk Racing Suzuki and DOA Racing Kawasaki rider Dean Harrison, who squeezed out Michael Dunlop (Hawk Suzuki) for fourth on the time sheets.

A delighted Irwin said: “Tuesday was terrible basically, so I switched to the bike I ride in BSB. The other bike seemed okay in testing but we just had a few issues with it on Tuesday.

“The BSB bike is probably safer for the roads and I want to be winning here at the North West 200 because that’s not going to happen at the TT for a few years yet.

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“People say you don’t need to be on the front row but my plan is always to try and get away and if anyone else comes along, then it’s a smaller group of riders.

“So for me, it’s important to be on that front row and I’m so happy with the Superbike today.”

Hickman narrowly missed the chance to improve his best lap after the chequered flag went out to bring the session to an end.

“The Superbike is working well but I didn’t manage to get a final fast lap at the end there,” he said.

“I just saw the flag going out as I came round but the bike is working really well and we’ll be fine.”

Irwin made it a pole double in the Superstock session, lapping at 122.088mph with fellow Carrick man Alastair Seeley 0.8s back on his IFS Yamaha.

Some rain showers around the course created some anxiety among the riders and prevented any improvement on the early lap times.

Davy Todd, sixth in Superbike qualifying, underlined his consistency on the Milenco by Padgett’s Honda machines in third ahead of Hickman, Dunlop and Lee Johnston (Ashcourt Racing BMW).

Johnston, quickest in the Supersport class on Tuesday, was put off by some scattered rain showers in yesterday’s session, with 12-time Supersport winner Seeley seizing his chance to take pole on the IFS Yamaha.

Tobermore’s Adam McLean was only 0.4s behind in second, with Todd on the front row again in third.

Dunlop, Harrison and James Hillier (OMG Yamaha) finalised the top six, with Johnston’s time from Tuesday leaving him seventh on the grid.

Cooper took pole on the J McC Roofing Kawasaki Supertwin ahead of the equally impressive Frenchman Pierre Yves Bian (VAS Paton), while Magherafelt’s Paul Jordan had a strong ride on the PreZ Kawasaki in third.

Three-time winner Jeremy McWilliams (IFS/Bayview Hotel Paton) was fifth behind Joe Loughlin (Paton).


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