Ulster GP: Hickman fastest in opening qualifying

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Peter Hickman topped the timesheets during the opening Superbike qualifying session of the 2019 fonaCAB Ulster Grand Prix today, with the session brought to an end nine minutes early because of a heavy rain shower. 

Last year’s UGP treble winner was the only rider who broke through the 130mph barrier, lapping at 131.237mph on his Smiths Racing BMW S1000RR, 4.763 seconds faster than Conor Cummins (Milenco Padgett’s Honda). Davey Todd was third fastest just 0.846 seconds further back.

“My plan was to go and do a steady lap, put in two fliers and then come in and that’s what we did,” Hickman explained after setting his quickest time on his third circuit.

Hickman made a lengthy pit stop after the third lap to lower his S1000RR’s gearing but failed to improve his time as the conditions worsened. Cummins also set his fastest speed of 128.229mph on his second lap. 

All of the fastest riders pitted after three laps when rain began to wet the road on the Leathemstown section of the course.

Only three of the top 10 quickest men went faster, when they rejoined the fray from the pits, with Davey Todd (Wepol Penz/BMW) lapping at 127.709mph and Lee Johnston (Ashcourt Racing BMW) at 127.395mph to slot into third and fourth.

“I am still learning the circuit, trying to get in some laps,” Todd explained. “I was taking it easy because it isn’t worth the risk in practice.”

“We made some suspension and tyre changes after the first few laps and were able to go a bit faster,” Johnston added.

Finishing just 0.01 seconds behind him was Dean Harrison aboard his Silicone Kawasaki. “We were steady away but it was drizzling all the time at different places,” he said. “I wasn’t sure of the line.”

Derek Sheils (RK Racing/Burrows Suzuki) and Paul Jordan (Dafabet Devitt Kawasaki) posted the 6th and 7th fastest times, however Sheils was well down on the speed trap times at 184mph. This was compared to Dean Harrison’s fastest mark of 196.9mph on the Flying Kilo. Hickman’s BMW was also 4.5mph slower than the Silicone Kawasaki.

Michael Dunlop posted the 8th quickest time on the Tyco BMW after a lengthy pit stop, 7.3 seconds slower than Hickman. David Johnson (Honda Racing) came in at 125.368mph and Jamie Coward (Prez Yamaha) rounded out the top 10 with a speed of 124.683mph.

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Stephen Davison

By Stephen Davison

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