NW200: Dunlop fastest again in wet Thursday practice

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Michael Dunlop continued to dominate the 2013 Vauxhall International North West 200 practice today with fastest times in every category except the Supertwins during a very wet session this morning.

The damp conditions meant that the times set on Tuesday will determine the grid positions for this evening’s three races and the five events on Saturday. 

Nevertheless the Ballymoney man was impressive as he splashed around the 8.9 mile circuit on the Honda TT Legends Fireblade, finishing 1.8 seconds faster than Flying Kiwi Bruce Anstey on the HM Plant/Padgett’s Honda.

Alastair Seeley ended up third quickest today, 8.5 seconds behind Dunlop, but his time would not give last year’s treble winner a place on the first five rows of the grid for either of the two Superbike races on Saturday. A steward’s meeting later today will decide if he is to be moved up the order.

24 year old Dunlop was keeping his cards close to his chest afterwards, refusing to get carried away with his performance.

‘When it comes to the races it will be a different story.’ Michael said. ‘The rest of the boys will get their speed up then.’

He was happy to be the recipient of a limited edition watch though, supplied by Cunningham Jeweller’s of Portstewart, as the fastest rider of practice week.

Clive Padgett’s HM Plant/Padgett’s squad have all five of their bikes at the North West on the front row of the grid in the three races they are competing in.

‘We are first and second in the Supersport class with John McGuinness followed by Bruce, Bruce is second in the Superbike races and in Superstock John is just ahead of Bruce.’ team boss Clive Padgett smiled afterwards. ‘ We have two great riders in Bruce and John and it’s not a bad performance for a band of mates going racing!’

The only man to head Michael Dunlop today was veteran Jeremy McWilliams who finished 3.6 seconds ahead of Dunlop’s McAdoo Kawasaki on the Vauxhall KMR Kawasaki ER-6.

‘I wanted to get a wet set-up sorted today and we made a few changes.’ The Grand Prix legend explained after the session ended. ‘I am happy enough and although I would like a dry race either way I am not too worried.’

Tyco Suzuki’s Josh Brookes continued to impress in his road racing debut, finishing sixth fastest in the Superbike class and blasting through the speed trap at an incredible 191mph in conditions that Michael Dunlop described as providing ‘no grip absolutely anywhere.’

Although the practice was run in very wet and difficult conditions it was an incident free session. Racing resumes this evening with roads closing at 5.15pm. The Ballymoney Borough Council Supersport race is followed by the Vauxhall Supertwin event before the Live Wire Superstock race brings the evening’s proceedings to a close.

On Saturday roads close at 10am with the first of the day’s five races leaving the line at 11. 

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Stephen Davison

By Stephen Davison

Biographer of John McGuinness & road racing's foremost writer & photographer