William Dunlop has topped the timing sheets in the opening supersport session at the North West 200, taking the Tyco Suzuki some 1.3 seconds quicker over the 9 mile circuit than second place man Michael Rutter.
Speaking after the session, Dunlop said: “The wee 600 is going really well – it’s surprised us a little and gone a lot better than we expected. It sets us up really well – if it’s fast here, then it’ll be fast everywhere, and I’m really happy with the chassis as well. It’s a completely new engine so the boys still have to fine tune it, but we’re not far away. I’m not going to go much quicker, but to be where we are now sets us up good."
Rutter returns to the supersport class for the first time in a number of years with front-running British Supersport team Smiths Triumph, and quickly gelled with the bike to out-pace pre-race favourite Alastair Seeley, who was forced to sit out part of the session with mechanical problems but still managed to finish third.
Lee Johnson was fourth on his East Coast Construction Pirtek Honda, ahead of the second Smiths Triumph of Gary Johnson and the second Tyco Suzuki of Guy Martin. John McGuinness, Michael Dunlop, Josh Brookes and Bruce Anstey rounded out the top ten.
However, the session also brought potential disaster for comeback hero Ian Hutchinson, who highsided his Milwaukee Yamaha R6 at the Mill Road Roundabout, and is currently in a local hospital for assessment to potential injuries to his hand. The following session was briefly delayed as course officials dealt with his burning Yamaha machine.