Ulster ace Irwin shows he means business with a rapid start at Thruxton
Ulsterman Glenn Irwin got his seventh round of the British Superbike series at the high-speed Thruxton Airfield circuit off to a good start when he fired down the second fastest time of the second free session yesterday.
The PBM Be Wiser Ducati rider, who is third in the Championship chase, was a quarter of a second behind Smith's BMW pilot Peter Hickman, with Jake Dixon in third and series leader Leon Haslam, who has never won a race at this venue, fourth.
Glenn's brother Andrew finished the opening day in ninth, with Michael Laverty 15th - but less than a second off Hickman's provisional pole time.
Tarran Mackenzie had set the fastest time of the day on his McAms Yamaha, but had his lap disallowed for exceeding track limits with his second fastest effort dropping him to 12th.
In the opening session of the day, only three riders - Hickman, Bradley Ray and Josh Brookes - lapped in the one minute 15 second bracket, the former top with a one minute 15.385 second lap.
The outright TT lap record holder didn't better his time in the second session, but still stayed ahead of the field with his opening time, although nine riders in total eventually made the one minute 15 second bracket.
Qualifying today is sure to be dramatic as riders aim to ensure a front-row starting position for tomorrow's opening race.
After missing the last round through injury, Jack Kennedy bounced back in Supersport free practice to finish second fastest, splitting the two Gearlink Kawasakis of James Westmoreland and Ben Currie.
Championship leader Kennedy was a mere 0.006sec behind Westmoreland, with Currie a further quarter of a second back.
Aaron Clifford and Korie McGreevy were third and fourth fastest in National Superstock 600cc practice, separated by a tenth of a second, less than a second behind fastest man Ryan Vickers.
In Superstock 1000, Ballinamallard's Josh Elliott was the best of our local runners in fourth position behind the two Bathams BMWs of Taylor Mackenzie and Michael Rutter, with Billy McConnell third fastest.
Championship leader Keith Farmer was eighth fastest, while in Junior Supersport, Aghadowey rider Eunan McGlinchey was second fastest ahead of this morning's qualifying.
Meanwhile, the MCUI Motocross Commission have announced the Irish team for the Sidecarcross des Nations at Slegelse, western Denmark under the management of Kenny Gardner.
The team consists of Neil Campbell and Craig Parmenter - it will be the former's sixth Des Nations - Gary Moulds and passenger Steve Kirwin - the reigning Irish champions and British Experts champions - and Stoneyford cousins Geoff and David Ingram for the event scheduled for September 22 and 23.
Elsewhere, MCE Ulster Grand Prix Bike Week events commence today with a vintage bike display in Lisburn Square from 12-2pm.
Tomorrow is the sponsored walk of the 7.4-mile Dundrod Circuit, leaving the paddock at 12pm, followed by the Church Service in the UGP Marquee at 3pm.
And following their summer break, MotoGP riders were back on track at Brno in the Czech Republic for the 10th round of the Championship, where Dani Pedrosa - soon to retire - claimed top spot in yesterday's opening practice session, the only man to break the one minute 56 second barrier on his Repsol Honda.