Peter Hickman reigns in a damp start at Ulster GP as Dunlop makes a flying return to action
Heavy rain, thunder and lightning led to afternoon practice being delayed and finally abandoned at yesterday's fonaCAB Ulster Grand Prix.
Smiths BMW ace Peter Hickman, however, beat the bad weather and got the Dundrod meeting off to a flying start by recording the fastest lap in the Superbike class of 131.237mph, the only rider to break the 130mph barrier before rain stopped play with less than 10 minutes left.
Superbike practice had been brought forward in an attempt to avoid the imminent rain and the organising Dundrod Club almost made it a dry practice.
Hickman was 4.763 seconds faster than Conor Cummins and his Milenco by Padgetts Honda, the Manxman getting around the 7.4-mile circuit in three minutes 27.785 seconds in 128.229mph.
Current International Road Race Championship leader Davey Todd was third, 0.8 seconds behind Cummins at 127.709mph.
Just over a second covered the next five riders, Lee Johnston, Dean Harrison, Derek Sheils, Paul Jordan and Michael Dunlop.
However, when it came to speed trap times, it was Harrison who was fastest down the Flying Kilo at 196.9mph ahead of Cummins at 195.7mph and Dunlop third at 194mph, with Hickman only sixth fastest at 192.4mph.
Hickman said: "It was absolutely mega to get back out on the Dundrod track again. The Smiths BMW was working well and with a few little tweaks I'm sure there is more to come.
"I'm happy with the way things went on the first day."
Jordan, meanwhile, left it until his last lap to set the fastest Supertwin effort at 112.850mph on the Dafabet Devitt Kawasaki.
Joseph Loughlin from Castleblayney was the surprise packet in second spot, 0.651 seconds behind, with Jamie Coward less than half a second back in third.
Johnston, on the Ashcourt KMR-prepared Kawasaki, had set the pace in the early stages but was relegated to fourth, over a second behind Coward, with Christian Elkin and Michael Sweeney completing the top six.
The first timed practice on track yesterday was the combined session for Lightweight and Ultra-Lightweight machines in which Gracehill rider Neil Kernohan, on his Logan Racing 250GP Honda, set the fastest speed of 110.815mph.
That was over seven-and-a-half seconds faster than Davy Morgan at 107.364mph on his DM71 Honda, with Shaun Anderson riding Cleaver Browne's Honda a further second back in third.
The fastest 400cc machine in fourth position was Welshman Paul Williams on the PK Yamaha.
Czech rider Michal Dokoupil was the fastest of the Ultra-Lightweight machines on his Ariane M3, 1.9 seconds faster than race favourite Elkin on Bob Wylie's M3 Honda.
Gary Dunlop was the first of the 125GP brigade in third on his Joey's Bar Honda, three and a half seconds behind Elkin.
After a long weather delay the Supersport machines took to the track, but Elkin's Yamaha engine blew and covered the road in oil which brought out the red flags.
Clerk of the course Noel Johnston was forced to call off the remaining practice for Superstock and Supersport machines.
Roads close from 10am this morning. Practice will be followed by four races in the afternoon for Superbike, Lightweight and Ultra-Lightweight running concurrently, Supersport and Supertwin classes.
Michael Dunlop will not be riding in the Supersport races in order to concentrate on Superbike and Superstock.
Superbikes: 1st P. Hickman 131.237mph, 2nd C. Cummins 128.229, 3rd D. Todd 127.709, 4th L. Johnston 127.395, 5th D. Harrison127.387, 6th D. Sheils 127.070
Supertwins: 1st P. Jordan 112.850mph, 2nd J. Loughlin 112.540, 3rd J. Coward 112.34, 4th L. Johnston 111.792, 5th C. Elkin 111.556, 6th M. Sweeney 108.518
Lightweight: 1st N. Kernohan 110.815mph, 2nd D. Morgan 107.364, 3rd S. Anderson 106.927, 4th P. Williams 106.572, 5th D. Tweed 105.050, 6th G. Keys 104.187
Ultra-Lightweight: 1st M. Dokoupil 107.653mph, 2nd C. Elkin 106.842, 3rd G. Dunlop 105.289, 4th N. Moore 102.786, 5th Melissa Kennedy 102.184, 6th C. Meyer 98.177