Rain plays havoc with North West 200 qualifying

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Kiwi Bruce Anstey lines up in pole position for Saturday’s North West 200 superbike races with John McGuinness on the HM plant Honda and Alastair Seeley, a late addition to the class on his Relentless Superstock Suzuki, alongside him.

The Relentless by TAS Suzuki rider and his rivals relied on their times set during Tuesday’s first practice after last night’s session was hit by drizzle and then showers.
Riders were met with grey skies and a strong breeze for last night’s second and final qualifying session at the North West 200 and while the session started dry, consistent drizzle affected most of the evening with damp patches at various parts of the course making life tricky for the riders.

Problems with a manhole cover on the run toward Metropole also meant the final Supersport/Superstock session was cancelled.

The nature of the 8.9-mile course meant that conditions were changing from lap to lap and even corner to corner in the first two sessions of the night, subsequently meaning that very few changes were made for Saturday’s grid.

It also means that a number of riders are still searching for an ideal set-up with their machines, particularly the Superbike class where Guy Martin, Keith Amor, Ian Hutchinson and Gary Johnson all experienced high-speed stability issues during Tuesday’s dry session.

It was Martin who topped the Superbike timesheets on Thursday, his lap of 116.934mph on the Hydrex Honda some four seconds down on his time from Tuesday and eleven down on polesitter Bruce Anstey.

Ian Hutchinson posted the second fastest lap, at 116.828mph, on the Padgetts Honda with Denver Robb in third but most of the top names, including Steve Plater, John McGuinness and Cameron Donald, found themselves a long way down the order opting to concentrate on fine tuning suspension and gearing with no chance of putting in a fast lap due to the inclement weather.

However, with Tuesday’s times settling the grid order it’s Anstey who will line up in first place on the Relentless by TAS Suzuki with McGuinness and Alastair Seeley, a late addition to the class on his Relentless Superstock Suzuki, alongside him. Michael Rutter on the North West 200 Yamaha will line up in seventh with Martin in 12th.

The drizzle was falling heavier towards the end of the Superbike session and the riders lined up on full wets for the final Supersport/Superstock session, but with the course conditions compromised by the offending manhole cover, and with light fading, race organisers were left with little option other than to call a halt to proceedings.

Therefore, Michael Dunlop will line up in pole position for the Supersport race, his lap on Tuesday of 117.946mph placing him ahead of Steve Plater and Keith Amor.

High-profile non-qualifiers included Michael Rutter, Alastair Seeley and Ian Lougher although they could well be added to the rear of the grid for Saturday’s two races.

Seeley, current leader of the British Superstock Championship, took pole in the Superstock class and, in what well could be the outcome on race day, team-mates Donald and Anstey ensured it was a Relentless by TAS Suzuki lock-out on the front row.

In the two-stroke classes, Christian Elkin and David Lemon will occupy pole position in the 250cc and 125cc races respectively, the Dunlop brothers, Michael and William, expected to be their closest challengers.

Leading qualifiers

Superbike
1 Bruce Anstey – 121.632mph
2 John McGuinness – 120.994
3 Alastair Seeley – 120.101
4 Keith Amor – 119.896
5 Steve Plater – 119.483
6 Cameron Donald – 119.428

Supersport
1 Michael Dunlop – 117.946mph
2 Steve Plater – 117.199
3 Keith Amor – 116.703
4 Bruce Anstey – 116.029
5 Ian Hutchinson – 115.985
6 William Dunlop – 115.934

Superstock
1 Alastair Seeley – 120.101mph
2 Cameron Donald – 119.778
3 Bruce Anstey – 119.163
4 Ryan Farquhar – 118.953
5 Gary Johnson – 118.735
6 Keith Amor – 118.630

250cc
1 Christian Elkin – 108.806mph
2 Michael Dunlop – 106.628
3 Denver Robb – 106.001
4 John McGuinness – 105.877
5 Mark Lunney – 105.699
6 Phil Harvey – 105.683

125cc
1 David Lemon – 106.630mph
2 William Dunlop – 100.253
3 Chris Palmer – 99.888
4 Olie Linsdell – 99.665
5 Paul Robinson – 99.360
6 Mark Lunney – 97.453

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Phil Wain

By Phil Wain