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

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

n Tuesday, the Carrickfergus man was unhappy with some of the electronics on the Honda Racing Fireblade which had been specially built for the North West and Isle of Man TT, where the 32-year-old is preparing for his debut in a few weeks.

Irwin, however, brushed off those frustrations on the North Coast as he threw down the gauntlet in his quest for a fifth consecutive Superbike triumph around the 8.9-mile “Triangle” course.

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

Hickman was narrowly outside Dunlop’s six-year benchmark as he spun at 123.042mph, while the front row of tomorrow’s two flagship races was completed by Richard Cooper on the Hawk Racing Suzuki and the DOA Racing Kawasaki rider Dean Harrison, who ousted Michael Dunlop (Hawk Suzuki) for fourth place on the timesheets.

A delighted Irwin said: “Tuesday was terrible basically so I switched to the bike I ride at 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 win here at the North West 200 because it won’t happen to the TT for a few years.

“People say you don’t have to be in the front row but my plan is always to try and get away and if someone else comes then it’s a small group of runners.

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

Hickman narrowly missed the opportunity to improve on his fastest lap after coming out of the checkered flag to close out the session.

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

“I just saw the flag come out when I came back, but the bike is running great and everything will be fine.”

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

A few showers around the course created some anxiety among the runners and prevented any improvement on the first lap times.

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

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

Tobermore’s Adam McLean was just 0.4s behind in second, with Todd in the lead again in third.

Dunlop, Harrison and James Hillier (OMG Yamaha) completed the top six, with Johnston’s time on 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 Paul Jordan of Magherafelt had a great run on the PreZ Kawasaki in third position.

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

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