Tuesday’s qualifying action at the returning FonaCAB & Nicholl Oils North West 200 concluded with a captivating battle for provisional Superstock pole position.
Despite the patchy, drying conditions, the turn of speed from the anticipated front-runners was rapid to say the least.
24 times NW200 winner Alastair Seeley was first to make his move, quickly moving 2.5 seconds ahead of the chasing pack headed by Buildbase Suzuki’s Richard Cooper, FHO Racing’s Peter Hickman and Bathams Racing’s Michael Rutter.
Seeley’s steadfast pace was then bettered by five times TT winner Hickman, with just 0.469 separating the competitors who between them have 47 International road-race victories.
Not long after, roads scene returnee Cooper took provisional pole, lapping at 4 minutes 46.165 seconds. One lap later and Seeley was fastest again closely followed by Hickman.
Then 47 plate holder Cooper jumped back to P1, going almost four seconds faster.
As conditions around the illustrious Triangle course gradually improved, there was a late flurry of PB lap times from racers including Michael Dunlop.
Dunlop surpassed Cooper’s new best lap time of 4 minutes 40.134 seconds, recording on his second timed lap, a lap time of 4 minutes 39.975 seconds.
His following lap saw him go even quicker, lapping almost sub 4 minutes 35 seconds.
Ultimately Dunlop (4.35.056) finished quickest overall by 1.758 seconds over fellow International roads great Rutter (4.36.814).
Previous qualifying pace setter Cooper (4.40.134) finished third quickest whilst the remainder of the top 10 from opening Superstock qualifying were as follows:
P4 Dominic Herbertson, P5 Ian Hutchinson, P6 James Hillier, P7 Craig Neve, Honda Racing’s Glenn Irwin, John McGuinness MBE respectively P8, P9 and the aforementioned IFS Global Logistics Yamaha mounted Seeley.
Photo credit: Rod Neill
Words by Stevie Rial #dontletfearcontrolyou